Chemistry Not On List Of Goals For OL

Many players talk about spring practices as a chance for them to grow closer with each other and gain a greater comfort level with each other, but that is not the case for Ohio State's offensive linemen this spring. Find out what the goals are for the line this April and what that means for the line moving forward into the 2008 season.

Spring football is for many things. It's a time for growth, a chance for young players to prove themselves and a time for the team to fine-tune what it needs to focus on headed into summer workouts.

But while the spring can go a long way toward helping develop chemistry among teammates, that sentiment does not apply to the team's offensive line for myriad reasons.

That seems to fly in the face of reason considering the fact that chemistry is perhaps at no greater of a premium than it is along the offensive line. In the trenches, the five linemen are tasked with controlling the tempo of the game and protecting the team's playmakers as they try to move the ball down the field.

But largely owing to a number of injuries, chemistry is one of the furthest things from offensive line coach Jim Bollman's mind as he leads his charges through the spring.

"You can't develop chemistry right now," he said. "You've got all those guys missing. No way. That's futile. That's a waste of time."

By "all those guys," Bollman was referring to the growing list of the walking wounded that have forced him to shuffle his linemen like a deck of cards this season. Just two members of last season's starting lineup are taking part in drills, while the other two returning starters find themselves watching from the sidelines.

Those facts, coupled with the fact that the Buckeyes still have to replace one starter at right tackle means that lots of players are getting lots of chances at lots of different spots. That leads to lots of confusion and not much chance to build chemistry

"It's kind of hard when you have to mesh with different guys," senior left tackle Alex Boone said. "I'm used to playing next to Steve (Rehring) and he's so big tall-wise and now I'm playing next to (Kyle) Mitchum, who's short. It's one of those things you've got to keep working with and keep pushing and fighting with it. It's exciting to get to work with other guys and other personalities."

As Boone alluded to, the spring is an important time for players such as Mitchum – who saw limited action last season after returning from a lower-leg injury – to simply get reps and grow more comfortable at their positions.

Adding to the confusion, though, is a point of contention for Bollman that pays dividends in the long run. All players are put through the paces both at guard and at tackle, giving them more flexibility as a team. Rehring, for example, is the starting left guard but has been Boone's primary backup at left tackle and could find himself playing right tackle this fall depending on how the search goes for a replacement for Kirk Barton.

Should Rehring slide to the other side of the line, someone else would obviously have to fill his spot.

Through it all, junior center Jimmy Cordle is tasked with keeping order. His line calls are the ones responsible for putting his teammates in the right position to deal with what the defense is doing – a task that is aided when familiar with his linemates.

In that sense, this spring will continue to test Cordle's ability to correctly align the team's offensive line.

"It's hard for me just because all the guys that were on the line last year, we just got a feel for each other," he said. "Everybody knows how they're going to fit and everybody knows what to do almost. When you have new guys rotating in, it's a little bit different but I like it."

But all is not lost, however. When OSU regroups for fall camp, it is expected that all the returning starters will be fully healthy and ready to go. For them, the focus is more on building off the experience of playing alongside each other one season ago than it is becoming familiar with each other.

OSU used the same five starters for all 13 games last season.

"I think we've been here enough where we don't need to be on the field to learn chemistry from each other," Rehring said. "We can be in the film room pointing things out and talking. We're an old enough group that we can be like that."

Perhaps with that in mind, Bollman said he is not doing things any differently during spring practice from a structure standpoint. However, he is aware that as the line goes, so goes the rest of the offense.

"We're just trying to get everybody improving as individuals, but then you're still trying to put enough pieces together," he said. "The biggest thing is that without us being able to formulate some kind of continuity up front, nobody gets better – running backs, quarterbacks, nobody. We have to try to form a little bit of continuity and consistency, but actual true chemistry – something might evolve on its own, but I don't try to structure it."

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