When the 2016 season begins Ohio State will unquestionably be talented. The Buckeyes will also be very inexperienced.
No position group better encapsulates those facts than the offensive line. In total Ohio State will have 55 players on the roster next season that came to Columbus with a four- or five-star rating but have not started more than five games in their Buckeye career. Ten of those players play along the offensive line.
While the Buckeyes are replacing three starters up front, including vacancies at both tackle positions, new offensive line coach Greg Studrawa will clearly have plenty of talented options when filling out his depth chart.
"They are all working, and they are all talented guys," Studrawa said. "It would be easy to say, 'There's the best five, lets go,' but its not. We are not close to that and that's good, because it shows we've got depth. That's what you want. You want to build a starting five that's a great group but you also want to build depth and have guys that can go in there. I'd love for it to be easy but it's not. They are all working hard and there's a lot of young guys that have got a chance."
Of the 10 offensive linemen who came to Columbus with a four- or five-star rating and have yet to get a significant number of starts all have at least two years of eligibility remaining. For some of the older players, however, it appears to be a now-or-never situation as the players behind them push for playing time.
The oldest of the offensive linemen on this list, Evan Lisle came to Columbus as a four-star offensive tackl in the 2013 recruiting class. The Centerville, Ohio, native has yet to see much time for the Buckeyes, but is "in the mix" to play at guard this year for Ohio State, Studrawa said.
After serving as the first offensive lineman off the bench during the 2015 season, Jamarco Jones appears ready to contribute for the Buckeyes in 2016. Despite the presence of two other highly regarded tackles, Meyer named Jones the starting left tackle after spring ball.
"Jamarco Jones got the nod," head coach Urban Meyer said April 20. "He is the starting left tackle. I announced that to the team and they clapped for him."
Like Jones, Malcolm Pridgeon has junior eligibility, though he is new to Ohio State. A five-star JUCO transfer, Pridgeon is expected to contend for the opening at right tackle throughout fall camp. The 6-8, 285-pound tackle has the size of an elite blocker and comes to Ohio State from Nassau Community College.
One of the lead contenders for the guard spot opposite incumbent starter Billy Price, Demetrius Knox came to Ohio State as a four-star prospect in the 2014 class. Knox was a second-team offensive lineman in 2015 as a true-freshman and is battling with Evan Lisle and some younger players for the starting spot this season.
Like Knox, Kyle Tout came to Ohio State as a four-star prospect in 2015. The Lancaster native, however, has yet to make an impact for the Buckeyes or appear on the two-deep at offensive line. Trout was not often discussed during spring practice and it appears that other offensive linemen may have passed him in the pecking order.
One of the few true freshmen to see playing time in 2015, Isaiah Prince spent all of spring practice as the first team right tackle for the Buckeyes. Prince will have to hold off Pridgeon for the starting spot, but after coming to Ohio State as a four-star prospect and the fourth-highest rated player in Ohio State's 2015 class it appears Prince is a future star. He played in 11 games as a true freshman and was on the two-deep almost as soon as he stepped on campus.
Prince's classmate, Matthew Burrell didn't see the field as a true freshman but appears capable of helping Ohio State at guard in the near future. He is in the mix for time at the open guard spot, though he may struggle to surpass the guards with more time in the program.
One of three highly-rated true freshmen offensive linemen set to be on Ohio State's roster this fall, Gavin Cupp comes to Columbus as a four-star guard in the 2015 class. He will start out as a guard, but has the size at 6-5, 285 pounds to play multiple positions along the offensive line for Ohio State before his career is over.
Another four-star lineman from the 2016 class, Tyler Gerald enrolled at Ohio State in January but spent spring practice recovering from a shoulder injury suffered during his senior year of high school. The 6-5, 330-pound true freshman is expected to contribute at guard when healthy, though a redshirt year seems likely in 2016.
Another early enrollee, Michael Jordan took reps with the first team at guard during spring practice. Though that was in part due to injury, it seems that the four-star prospect is very much in the mix for playing time as a true freshman.
"He is a big man that is extremely talented physically," Studrawa said. "He can move, and bend and do a lot of things. Athletically, he can overcompensate for a bad step or bad hand placement. That is the thing that surprised me most about him. And, he is a really intelligent young man."