When true freshman Michael Jordan won the starting left guard spot for Ohio State ahead of the 2016 season, fans were likely excited. That seemed to mean a first-year player had come in and was already good enough to force his way onto the field.
Head coach Urban Meyer, on the other hand, would've liked things to go down differently. While Jordan played well throughout the year and looks poised for a great 2017 season, Meyer said he ended up in the lineup because Ohio State missed on offensive linemen in recruiting in previous classes. Some of those players who should've developed into starters did not, leaving the door open for Jordan to win the job.
"You can't do that," Meyer said in regards to missing on offensive line prospects. "What happens is we have a year like we did last year – true freshmen should not play here.
"That's because there were some misses in there. Some players didn't develop, some things happened. Dog ate my homework, whatever it is. That should not happen here, very disappointed in that. We can't miss again."
Based on the past few years, those so-called misses can be traced back to the 2013 recruiting class. That group included three-star guard Tim Gardner and four-star tackle Evan Lisle in addition to Billy Price, who was rated a four-star defensive tackle by Scout.
For one reason or another, Gardner and Lisle never played meaningful snaps at Ohio State. Gardner didn't even make it to the 2013 season before being dismissed while Lisle, who was one of the players who lost out to Jordan last year, opted to transfer to Duke for the 2017 season. Price, on the other hand, is back for a fifth season after becoming an All-American in 2016.
The 2014 class has had a much bigger impact when it comes to the offensive line. That group included four-star tackle Jamarco Jones, who is set for his second season starting on the left side of Ohio State's offensive line in 2017. But it also included three-star guard Marcelys Jones, who had a premature end to his Buckeye career, and four-star offensive tackle Kyle Trout, who is transferring to Cincinnati this year after never making an impact at Ohio State. The other two linemen from the 2014 haul still on the roster are Brady Taylor and Demetrius Knox. Taylor has been a mainstay on the two-deep at center, but he's never pushed for a starting spot. Knox, who is working as the No. 1 right guard this spring, struggled mightily when thrust into action after Jordan was injured against Clemson last year.
And then comes the 2015 class, which initially included five offensive linemen. One of them – Mirko Jurkovic Jr. – never even made it to campus. Then there's Grant Schmidt, who transferred after redshirting his first year. Isaiah Prince is the gem of the group, and he's set for a second season as Ohio State's starting right tackle in 2017.
After that, Branden Bowen and Matt Burrell are still on the roster, but neither has been able to crack the starting five. Bowen was the Buckeyes' sixth lineman for much of last season, though, showing some promise. Burrell, who has been criticized by Meyer in the past, seems to be making strides this spring. Meyer dubbed him the team's most improved lineman.
The other lineman from the 2015 class is Kevin Feder, who has struggled with injury issues so far at Ohio State. They also got another position-mate from their class this spring when Joshua Alabi switched over from the defensive line to provide depth.
At times it has seemed like Ohio State had plenty of quantity, but not quality, at offensive line, especially in the backup ranks. That has clearly become a focus of Meyer on the recruiting trail in 2016 and 2017, and it seems likely that trend will continue for the 2018 class and beyond.
"No. 1 is toughness, a guy – if you have to worry about toughness of a lineman then you made a horrible mistake," Meyer said in regard to what he looks for in OL recruits. "You've got to deal with that at receiver and other positions. But toughness is No. 1, you have to be athletic, you have to be able to move. You have to be able to get leverage on players and you've got to be the ultimate grinder.
"If you're not that then it's called a miss. There's some young guys really coming on right now, but you're right – we had probably two classes in there that didn't turn out."
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