Preseason Big Board: Tight Ends, Off. Linemen

In the second of a five-part series, we examine the tight end and offensive line positions for the OSU football team. Senior Rob Sims (above) returns to lead the O-line. We look at the personnel on the squad as well as recruiting possibilities.

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

We opened this five-part series Friday 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 latest roster are also listed.

(All class designations are 2005 eligibility; starters marked with an asterisk.)

Tight End

* In The Fold (3): Ryan Hamby* (Sr.), Marcel Frost (So.), Rory Nicol (So.).

* Medical Waiver (1): R.J. Coleman (Jr.).

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

* Verbal For 2006 (1): Jake Ballard.

* Analysis: Hamby (6-5, 255) 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. But he missed most of the 2004 season due to injury. He looked good in spring practice, even catching a touchdown pass in the spring game. 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, 260) 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. He has gained 15 pounds of bulk in the off-season.

Coleman's career appears to be over because of recurring shoulder problems. He came to OSU as a highly recruited tight end, but spent much of his first two years with the offensive line before moving back to tight end at midseason in 2004.

Hoewischer (6-4, 250) made several impressive grabs in practice, but only played in one regular season game in 2004.

Ballard (6-6, 255) is an impressive, athletic big man. He could remain a tight end at the college level or could continue to grow and develop into an offensive lineman as Coleman and Kirk Barton did for OSU in recent years.

* Still 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.

Outside the state, California's Konrad Reuland (6-6, 240; comes from Mission Viejo, same school as OSU signee DE Ryan Williams) could be the best option. Scout.com ranks him as the nation's No. 2 tight end. He is due to tour OSU in August.

Offensive Linemen

* In The Fold (12): C Nick Mangold* (Sr.), OT Rob Sims* (Sr.), OG Andree Tyree (Sr.), OG Doug Datish* (Jr.), OG T.J. Downing (Jr.), OT Kirk Barton* (So.), OT Steve Rehring (So.), OG Kyle Mitchum (R-Fr.), OG Ben Person (R-Fr.), OT Jon Skinner (R-Fr.), C Jim Cordle (Fr.), OT Alex Boone (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 (Fr.), LS Matt Drummelsmith (R-Fr.), LS Adam Licker (R-Fr.), OL Drew Parry (R-Fr.).

* Verbals For 2006 (0): None.

* Analysis: OSU loses Mike Kne, who started all season at right guard. But six players with starting experience return. The group is led by two-year starters Mangold and Sims. Offensive coordinator/line coach Jim Bollman used the spring to mix and match a number of combinations.

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 (6-7, 325) redshirted in 2003, then opened 2004 as a backup to Tim Schafer at right tackle. (Schafer, a junior, repped at defensive tackle in the spring.) Barton ended up taking the position and making it his, 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. He has gained 20 pounds since last year.

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. For now, though, Datish has settled back into the lineup at right guard.

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. Downing ended the spring as the starter at left guard. But, as noted, Sims or others could also see time at guard as they look for the best combination.

Rehring (6-8, 329) 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. He has gained 14 pounds in the last year. He is listed as Sims'

Tyree (6-3, 290) has dealt with health issues since his arrival. He will have one last chance to try and put it together as a senior.

Of the three redshirts, Skinner (6-5, 300) may be the closest to playing time. He is listed as the backup to Barton at right tackle.

Mitchum (6-6, 295) has packed on 20 pounds in his first off-season. He fits in as the third man at left guard, behind Downing and walk-on Conroy (6-3, 295).

Person (6-4, 315) added 15 pounds this off-season. He draws in behind Datish and Tyree at right guard, at least for the time being.

Cordle (6-5, 275) graduated early from Lancaster, Ohio, and enrolled in time for spring football, where he was a pleasant surprise at center. He 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 also a two-time All-Ohio pick. Boone, a tackle prospect all the way, was ranked as the nation's No. 2 OL by Scout.com. It will be interesting to see if he is able to push his way into the two-deep as a true freshman.

Winner (6-6, 300) is listed as Mangold's backup at center. With long snapper Kyle Andrews departing, Norman (6-0, 230) has the inside track to that job – and a possible scholarship as well.

* Definitely Looking: The Buckeyes probably would like to sign at least three linemen and maybe even four in this year's class after netting just two a year ago.

The number one uncommitted prospect on Ohio State's board right now is Cincinnati Colerain's Connor Smith (6-5, 295), who is ranked as the nation's No. 5 OL by Scout.com. He says he will announce his college choice on or about Aug. 1. OSU, where his father Joe was a lineman in the early 1980s, is believed to hold the inside track just ahead of Michigan, Florida, Oklahoma, Tennessee and LSU.

Another Cincinnati prospect who is also high on OSU's list is Princeton's Aaron Brown (6-6, 283). Brown, who will visit OSU officially for the Texas game Sept. 10, is also looking at Tennessee, Florida and Florida State, among others. He is ranked as the nation's No. 17 lineman by Scout.com.

Other linemen with offers from OSU include Georgia's Kiante Tripp (6-5, 250) and Maryland's J.B. Walton (6-3, 270).

After evaluating a number of Ohio prospects at their summer camp, the Buckeyes could now also take a long look at Canton GlenOak's Ryan Palmer (6-7, 280), Cleveland Glenville's Bryant Browning (6-3, 328), Hudson's Bill Nagy (6-4, 295) and Indiana's Cody Faulkner (6-6, 306).

The Buckeyes lost a head-to-head battle with rival Michigan for Pickerington (Ohio) North's Justin Boren (6-3, 315), who is ranked eighth nationally by Scout.com. But it should be noted that Boren's father Mike played college ball at UM.

Here are the archives from the previous installments of the preseason edition of The Big Board:

Part 1: QBs, RBs and Receivers


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