We opened this five-part series Monday with a look at the offensive backs and receivers. We continue today with the tight ends and offensive linemen.
Coming up, we will get inside the huddle on the defensive line and at linebacker.
Then, we will examine the secondary and specialists.
Finally, 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 who were on the Alamo Bowl roster are also listed.
(All class designations are 2005 eligibility; starters marked with an asterisk.)
* In The Fold (4): Ryan Hamby* (Sr.), R.J. Coleman (Jr.), Marcel Frost (So.), Rory Nicol (So.).
* Walk-On (1): Jordan Hoewischer (So.).
* New This Fall (0): None.
* Analysis: Hamby (6-5, 250) stepped into the void created by Ben Hartsock's departure. Amazingly, he caught fewer passes (16) this past year as the starter than he did the year before (18) as the second banana behind Hartsock. That speaks volumes for OSU's use of the tight ends, although Hamby has worked hard to improve his blocking and become a complete tight end.
Frost (6-5, 255) moved over from defensive end and was primed to be the second tight end. He looked good in preseason camp before suffering an injury. He is the kind of athletic pass catcher OSU was hoping to have at this position with Louis Irizarry. Hopes are high that Frost will be back to full-go in 2005.
With Frost on the shelf, Nicol (6-5, 245) was pressed into service immediately upon his arrival from Beaver, Pa. His first career catch was a 23-yard TD grab to avert a shutout in the waning moments of the Iowa loss. He capped his freshman year with two more catches in the Alamo Bowl win over Oklahoma State. He was considered one of the nation's top tight end prospects a year ago and shows the promise to be a key player at this position over the next three years.
With plenty of depth on the offensive line, Coleman (6-5, 295) was moved back to tight end at midseason. It was strictly a stop-gap measure and he was only used sparingly in the role late in the year. He was asked to add 30 pounds of bulk to play the line, only to move back to tight end. It's hard to say where his future lies.
Hoewischer (6-4, 250) made several impressive grabs in practice, but only played in one regular season game this past year.
* Definitely Looking: The lack of a great blocking tight end also put a crimp in OSU's running game in 2004. With Hamby on his way out after this season, OSU would do well to secure the services of one or maybe even two tight ends in the 2005 class.
In Ohio, there will be several key names to track – Columbus Brookhaven's Jeff Cumberland (6-6, 215), Youngstown Ursuline's Jerome Jones (6-7, 220) and Massillon Washington's Brett Huffman (6-4, 200).
Outside the state, California's Konrad Reuland (6-6, 240; comes from Mission Viejo, same school as OSU signee DE Ryan Williams) and Illinois' Jamie Cumbie (6-7, 255) could be key options for offers.
* In The Fold (11): C Nick Mangold* (Sr.), OT Rob Sims* (Sr.), OG Andree Tyree (Sr.), OG Doug Datish* (Jr.), OG T.J. Downing (Jr.), OT Tim Schafer (Jr.), OT Kirk Barton* (So.), OT Steve Rehring (So.), OG Kyle Mitchum (R-Fr.), OG Ben Person (R-Fr.), OT Jon Skinner (R-Fr.).
* Walk-Ons (10): C Steve Winner (Sr.), OG John Conroy (Sr.), LS Drew Norman (Jr.), OL Caesar Buie (So.), OL Daniel Dye (So.), LS Dimitrios Makridis (So.). OL Tyler Whaley (So.), LS Adam Licker (R-Fr.), Nick Lembech (R-Fr.), Drew Parry (R-Fr.).
* New This Spring (1): Jim Cordle.
* New This Fall (1): Alex Boone.
* Analysis: OSU loses Mike Kne, who started all season at right guard. But seven players with starting experience return. The group is led by two-year starters Mangold and Sims. It seemed likely that offensive coordinator/line coach Jim Bollman would use the spring to mix and match a number of combinations before settling on a starting line for 2005.
"We're really excited," Mangold said. "We're been working hard on making ourselves better every day and every week. I think we saw as this past season went on. Now that it's our chance for Rob and I as the older guys to mold some things, we can go through every day of the off-season getting better and getting ready for 2005.
"I think Steve Rehring did a good job of learning his stuff. T.J. kept his head down and kept working hard. That was shown with what they were able to do. Kirk Barton has been working hard. We've got a lot of young guys who want to work hard, they want to learn and they want to do things right, so that should really help us out."
Sims (6-4, 310) now has 28 career starts, the most among OSU offensive linemen. He has been the anchor of the line at left tackle, where he is a strong pass protector and run blocker. It is possible, though, that he could move to guard if Bollman believes he can have a better lineup with him there than at tackle.
Mangold (6-4, 290) started the final 10 games of 2003 when Alex Stepanovich moved to guard, then had 11 starts in 12 games in 2004. He is, perhaps, the leader of the line at center, where he is considered one of the Big Ten's best.
Barton (6-6, 305) redshirted in 2003, then opened 2004 as a backup to Schafer at right tackle. He ended up taking the position and making it is, starting the last seven games. He is a big rangy player who brings attitude to the table. He has a bright future in front of him.
Datish (6-5, 295) won the left guard job in the spring. He started eight games there and one at center as well in 2004 before giving way to Downing late in the year. Run blocking is his forte. He could take over at center as well if something were to happen to Mangold and would, certainly, be a candidate to start there in 2006.
Downing (6-5, 305) also brings a nastiness to his work that really suits him well. He started three of the last four games – including Michigan and the Alamo Bowl – in place of Datish at left guard. With Kne gone, the obvious move would be for both Datish and Downing to fill starting spots in 2005. But, as noted, Sims or others could also see time at guard as they look for the best combination.
Schafer (6-5, 290) won a close battle with Barton and Downing for the starting nod at right tackle. He started the first five games before giving way to Barton. He still has two years left and could still factor if he does enough in the spring and preseason camp to push the issue.
Rehring (6-8, 315) was a pleasant surprise as well. After enrolling early for spring ball, he was the only one of the freshman linemen to see action in 2004. He played the last six games, starting one. He showed good athletic ability and a mean streak for a big guy.
OSU has finally rebuilt the depth on the offensive line. Tyree (6-3, 300) has dealt with health issues since his arrival. He will have one last chance to try and put it together as a senior. It was noted that R.J. Coleman could also move back to the offensive line this spring if Marcel Frost pans out at tight end.
The staff is waiting for spring ball to arrive to see where the other three freshmen – Mitchum (6-6, 275), Person (6-4, 300) and Skinner (6-5, 280) – end up. Mitchum and Person could project as guards, while Skinner could be a tackle.
Cordle (6-5, 275) is enrolling early this spring. He projects as a guard or center and could possibly be Mangold's replacement in 2006. He was a two-time All-Ohio pick at Lancaster. He was the nation's 30th-best offensive lineman by Scout.com.
Boone (6-8, 315) is being heralded as OSU's next great offensive lineman. He was hopeful of graduating early from Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward, where he was also a two-time All-Ohio pick, and participating in spring ball. That did not seem like a definite possibility, though. Boone, a tackle prospect all the way, was ranked as the nation's No. 2 OL by Scout.com.
Of the walk-ons, Conroy (6-3, 295) and Winner (6-6, 290) each spent time in the two-deep last year. With long snapper Kyle Andrews departing, Norman (6-0, 230) could have the inside track to that job – and a possible scholarship as well.
* Definitely Looking: OSU also had an verbal commitment from California's Kevin Bemoll this year before he decommitted and went to Cal instead. That tells you that the Buckeyes want more linemen. And with Sims, Mangold and Tyree all departing, I would look for OSU to want to sign as many as four more offensive linemen in this class.
Ohio State already has three offers pending to instate offensive linemen with Cincinnati Princeton's Aaron Brown (6-6, 283), Pickerington North's Justin Boren (6-4, 285) and Cincinnati Colerain's Connor Smith (6-5, 280). Brown has reportedly become a hot property with offers from Miami (Fla.), Auburn, LSU and many others. Boren's father played at Michigan, while Smith's dad Joe is a former OSU lineman.
Others in Ohio of note include Springfield South's Lee Tilley (6-7, 295), Springboro's Jacob Ballard (6-7, 255), Canton GlenOak's Ryan Palmer (6-7, 278), Kenton's D.J. Burris (6-3, 275) and Columbus Brookhaven's Mark Jackson (6-6, 310). Indiana's Cody Faulkner (6-6, 306) could also be in the running.
Here are the archives from the previous installments of the post signing day edition of The Big Board: