The Big Board, Part 2: Tight End, Offensive Line

Here is the second of five installments of our position-by-position look at Ohio State football. Today, we look at the tight ends and offensive linemen, including center-in-waiting Nick Mangold.

We are back with the second installment of The Big Board, my position-by-position look at the Ohio State football team.

We opened this five-part series yesterday with a look at the offensive backs and receivers. We continue today with the tight ends and linebackers.

Coming up Friday, we will get inside the huddle on the defensive line and at linebacker.

Saturday, we will examine the secondary and specialists.

Finally, on Sunday, we will tie all of this data together.

Here is a position-by-position look at OSU's scholarship status and prospects at the tight end and offensive line positions with returning players listed by seniority. Walk-ons listed if on latest published roster (i.e. if you don't see a particular walk-on, he is not on the most recent roster update).

(All class designations are 2003 eligibility; starters marked with an asterisk.)

Tight End

* In The Fold (6): Ben Hartsock* (Sr.), Jason Caldwell (Jr.), Ryan Hamby (Soph.), Redgie Arden (Soph.), Stan White Jr. (R-Fr.), Louis Irizarry (Fr.).

* Walk-On (1): Jordan Hoewischer (Fr.)

* 2004 Verbal (1): Chad Hoobler.

* Analysis: This is a nice collection of tight ends, led by Hartsock. As teams have stacked to stop the run, they have left the tight ends wide open. Hartsock has 14 grabs, including one touchdown, while backup Ryan Hamby has two TDs among his nine grabs.

Calling Hamby a backup is a misnomer as OSU has probably used two tight ends 60 percent of the time so far this year.

Irizarry, a prep All-American last year at Youngstown Ursuline, has shown some flashes, although he is waiting for his first career catch after dropping a sure TD against Northwestern. If he settles down into a regular role, he could be dynamite.

White showed a lot in preseason camp, but has not seen much time in the first five games. But this versatile guy is still just a redshirt freshman.

Consistency and injuries have kept Caldwell from making his mark. Arden just returned to practice after serving a suspension for a second drunken driving arrest. Once Hartsock leaves, he could push hard to be among OSU's top three tight ends.

With Hamby, Irizarry, Arden and Hoobler in the fold after this year, OSU is well positioned at this key spot.

* Still Looking?: Hoobler, a product of Carrollton, Ohio, verbaled early for OSU over Penn State. He is a rugged guy who could also factor in on defense at linebacker if needed.

It seems unlikely that OSU will go after another tight end. The only other one OSU has offered is Pennsylvania's Rory Nicol (6-5, 245). He is also being courted by Penn State, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Florida State and North Carolina.

Offensive Linemen

* In The Fold (16): RG Bryce Bishop* (Sr.), LG Adrien Clarke* (Sr.), LT Ivan Douglas (Sr.), RT Shane Olivea* (Sr.), C Alex Stepanovich* (Sr.), LS Kyle Andrews (Jr.), OG Mike Kne (Jr.), C Nick Mangold (Soph.), OG Adam Olds (Soph.), LT Rob Sims* (Soph.), OG Andree Tyree (Soph.), OT R.J. Coleman (R-Fr.), OT Doug Datish (R-Fr.), OT T.J. Downing (R-Fr.), OT Tim Schafer (R-Fr.), OT Kirk Barton (Fr.).

* He Must Be Gone (1): OT Ryan Cook (Soph.)

* Walk-Ons (4): OT John McLaughlin (Jr.), Steve Winner (Soph.), John Conroy (Soph.), LS Drew Norman (R-Fr.).

* Verbals For 2004 (3): Ben Person, Steve Rehring, Jon Skinner.

* Verbal For 2005 (1): Alex Boone.

* Analysis: With five seniors due back to start on the offensive line, hopes were high that this would be one of the country's top lines. But with OSU sitting at 106th nationally (out of 117 Division I-A teams), those hopes have not exactly panned out.

It did not help that Douglas was lost for the year due to recurring blood clot problems, which also cost him his 2001 season. It is unclear whether he will pursue a sixth year of eligibility if he is able to return to football. Sims has replaced him and been largely solid at LT.

Stepanovich would have been a strong all-star candidate -- and still may be -- but he has missed the last three games due to an unnecessary ankle injury, suffered on the final play of the first half against San Diego State. He is due back for the Wisconsin game.

Bishop and Olivea, each with two years of starting experience, have not been as consistent as some hoped. Clarke has emerged, largely, as the leader of the group with Stepanovich out.

Mangold is the center of the future, but he got the last three starts and earned high marks with Stepanovich out. His strong play could lead the staff to play Stepanovich some at guard to get Mangold on the field.

Kne was put on scholarship because of his steady play as the "sixth" lineman in Jumbo sets. Olds elevated into the rotation for the Bowling Green game before going down with an injury.

Andrews earned a scholarship last year as a solid long snapper.

Tyree flirted with playing fullback last year, but may finally be settling into a position at guard. Schafer, a converted defensive lineman, and Barton, a true freshman, are listed as the backup tackles in the two-deep. But it is likely Barton will redshirt.

Not sure where those developments leave Datish, Coleman (a converted tight end) and Downing. But everybody will be in the running for starting spots in 2004 beginning this spring.

The early line favorites to start in 2004 are: C Mangold, LG Kne, LT Sims, RG Olds, RT anybody's guess between Barton, Schafer, Datish or maybe Douglas, if he returns.

* Looking Hard: OSU has three verbals for this year and one for next year already with Boone. But with four or five seniors leaving, OSU still would take two or maybe even three more offensive linemen in this class.

The verbals seem solid. Person (6-4, 305) of Xenia is Ohio's top OL prospect. Rehring (6-8, 314) from West Chester Lakota West has been heavily scouted by the Buckeyes. Skinner (6-5, 285) has rebounded from injuries to have a big senior year at Mt. Carmel, Pa.

Boone (6-8, 290), a standout at Lakewood St. Edward, would be one of the state's top junior prospects.

There may be just two more Ohio seniors on OSU's radar and one of those is committed elsewhere. OSU may be making a late bid to get in on Dover's Chauncey Incarnato (6-6, 280), who verbaled to Notre Dame in mid-August without an OSU offer.

OSU offered Youngstown Ursuline's Brandon Braxton (6-6, 310) long ago, but reports have not been good on Braxton's play as a senior.

Outside Ohio, OSU has already welcomed in two of the nation's best line prospects for official visits. Jeff Byers of Loveland, Colo., was in for the Washington game. He is also looking at Iowa, Colorado, Nebraska, USC and Texas. Brett Gallimore (6-5, 290) of Riverside, Mo., was in for the San Diego State game. He is also looking at Purdue, Michigan, Iowa and Florida State.

Another name to remember is Kyle Mitchum (6-6, 265) of Erie, Pa. He is also looking at Iowa, Miami (Fla.), Michigan, Tennessee and Wisconsin.

Jacky Claude (6-4, 290) of Miami, Fla., made an unofficial visit for the Northwestern game and is due back for an official visit Dec. 6. He is also looking at Auburn, Florida State, Miami (Fla.) and N.C. State.

One more name to look at is Carlos Feliciano (6-6, 285) of Elizabeth, N.J. He is also considering Maryland, South Carolina and Virginia.

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