Captain's Corner: Buckeye Offensive Line

They are always the overlooked members of an offense, but any football junkie knows the importance of a quality offensive line. The offensive line personnel Ohio State brings this season appear to be a quality group on paper. In this week's Captain's Corner, ex-OSU captain Jerry Rudzinski examines the line and what to look for from them this year.

Considering all the publicity going to the Buckeyes heading into August camp, it seems like the offensive line has not been talked about much in the newspapers, preview magazines, and radio talk shows.

The questions seem to be things such as, "How will the defense perform after losing all those guys?" "How about Tressel's contract?" "Is Saine faster than Ginn?" "What does Troy need to do to beat out Quinn for the Heisman?" I think I've heard more about Matta's recruiting than I have the offensive line…which is fine by the way. However, it's an important question – how will OSU stack up in the trenches?

I don't know. There are some big boys coming back. There is also some experience coming back. The loss of Nick Mangold and Rob Sims will hurt though. Mangold and Sims were the guts to that line the past few years. They showed up every week and played like men even as underclassmen. They had attitude and confidence in themselves. You would never see those guys getting into trouble off the field. They played like professionals despite their amateur status.

I like the Datish/Downing combination up the middle. Doug Datish really played well last year, especially against Notre Dame. He can move very well and gets down field to help his teammates turn a good run into a great run. I haven't seen any returners with more hustle plays than Datish. His shoulder has been banged up, but he is back on track after working hard in the off-season. In addition, he is very intelligent, which should make for a nice transition to center.

Downing also plays with an edge at his guard position. We need more guys with his demeanor. T.J. is not out there to act like Mr. Nice Guy. He will hit you, drive you, hit you again and come at you even harder the next play.

Alex Boone and Steve Rehring bring some incredible size to the line. It's one thing to be 325+ lbs., but lets face it, every major college team has those numbers. What people don't have is the 6-7 – 6-8 height. That is tough to recruit, and even tougher to get around as a defender. That range and length will help tremendously as defenders try to pressure the quarterback.

In this day and age of spread offenses, it has never been more important to get to the quarterback quickly as a defender because you know that ball is coming out quick. Getting around somebody 6-7 unimpeded is near impossible. That length and coverage can cover up a multitude of sins. Average feet, average strength, and average understanding of the playbook all look superior when you have a five inch height advantage on a defender you are shielding from your quarterback. The good news to Buckeye fans is Rehring and Boone are already above average in most areas…and they are 6-7 – 6-8 guys on top of that.

Kirk Barton should be very good. The time is now for Kirk, and his experience and athleticism will make him a household name to opposing defensive coaches. The Buckeyes also need production from Jim Cordle and Jon Skinner. Tim Schafer needs to add depth.

All in all, the offensive line will be a question mark until they face that defensive line against Texas, but it looks good on paper.

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