Buckeye Offensive Line Remains Unsettled

If the annual preseason jersey scrimmage taught observers of the Ohio State offensive line anything, that lesson would have to be there is a lot left to learn with two weeks left go before the first game of the season.

The Ohio State offense lost the annual preseason jersey scrimmage 52-44 at Ohio Stadium on Saturday, thanks in no small part to the consistent stranglehold the defense put on the Buckeyes' passing game. Part of that was a result of strong pass coverage by the secondary, but more had to do with the pressure in quarterback Terrelle Pryor's face most of the time he dropped back to pass.

That the pass protection remains a project was not a surprise given that head coach Jim Tressel told a Columbus radio station one day earlier that the run blocking was ahead of the pass blocking so far in preseason camp, but that does not figure to provide much solace to fans hoping to see the Buckeyes win another Big Ten championship and return to the national championship race.

Yet neither Tressel nor the two senior offensive linemen made available for interviews sounded too concerned with the day's results.

"Today we were focusing on a couple of different things, but I feel real good about the O-line," said right tackle Jim Cordle. "We were focusing on some certain formations, some tight red-zone formations. (Offensive line coach Jim Bollman) said afterward he's not concerned about our ability to run block. We did some things to work on our drop-back pass protection and did a couple of our rollouts. It was good to get some reps at that. The defense gave us some different blitzes and that was good. We can learn from where we made mistakes there because that's not something we practice a lot."

Tressel liked getting to see how his line would cope with the pressure applied by what figures to be one of the better defensive lines in the conference if not the country, even if the results were not always what the offense would want to see.

In couching their evaluation of the line's performance, the head coach and Cordle both alluded to the continuing unrest in the starting lineup that is a result of two developments, one expected at the start of camp and one not so much.

The latter situation is the absence of left guard Justin Boren, a newcomer to Ohio State but a college football veteran who transferred into the program after two years at Michigan. He is expected to bring and upgrade in talent to the position as well as a more aggressive attitude, but that is all on hold as he rehabilitates a knee injury suffered about a week ago.

Boren's absence – which Tressel said Saturday should not extend into the regular season – exacerbates the uncertainty on the left side of the line where the coaches knew they would be holding auditions for a tackle during camp.

In the scrimmage, Andy Miller got the first turn at left tackle while Andrew Moses played guard.

Later J.B. Shugarts replaced Miller and Jack Mewhort and Corey Linsley both got shots at left guard.

Without seeing the film, Tressel was not willing to give much of an evaluation of any of them.

"I think this scrimmage film will help us move a little closer to those kinds of decisions, but with another 12 or 13 practices to go plus early-season games – you know, all of a sudden whoever jogs out there for that first series the first game, that doesn't mean they're going to be jogging out there the first series on the 21st of November, so it's an on-going thing," Tressel said.

Cordle called the situation at left tackle interesting but declined to offer an evaluation of who might win the spot.

He said the group misses Boren because he is expected to be an integral part of the line, but expressed little concern about the state of the offense despite the top unit's inability to score any touchdowns against the No. 1 defense.

"I mean, it's bad when you have an injury like Justin because that really messes things up, but just the offense overall, we've simplified it, and we feel confident in the plays that we have," he said. "We've come a long way in terms of technique and things."

Moses, a fifth-year walk-on who has been part of the two-deep as a center the past two seasons, said the line embraces the competition.

"Competition is always good," he said. "When people know if they don't perform there is someone behind them or people next to them who is capable of doing it, they're going to practice and they're going to play harder. So maybe if this was in October and we were having this conversation it would be a little different, but right now I don't really see a problem with it."

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