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Offensive line paves the way for Buckeyes’ big numbers

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After Ohio State’s win against Cincinnati, Urban Meyer made it clear which position group led the way.

On Monday, the third-year OSU coach reiterated the impact his offensive line had on the Buckeyes 50-28 win.

“Player of the game was the entire offensive line,” Meyer said.

The line paved the way as the OSU offense either set, or came close to setting, multiple school records against the Bearcats. The Buckeyes set a new OSU record with 45 first downs and finished third in school history with 710 total yards from scrimmage.

The Buckeyes even briefly held what would have been a new record of 720 yards before a 20-yard loss negated the need to print a new record book.

OSU co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Ed Warinner said his unit’s success against Cincinnati on Saturday and two weeks earlier against Kent State is simply because of improvement, not a new approach.

“There’s not really anything different other than we’re developing some consistency and playing with a good demeanor,” Warinner said Monday. “And we’re also getting more guys in the game.”

Warinner said running more players in and out has been part of the Buckeyes’ plan as they’ve settled in with a six-man rotation, while a seventh is close to breaking through.

The starting lineup throughout the season has consisted of junior Taylor Decker at left tackle, redshirt-sophomore Pat Elflein at left guard, junior Jacoby Boren at center, redshirt-freshman Billy Price at right guard and redshirt-senior Darryl Baldwin at right tackle. Warinner said redshirt-junior Chase Farris is the sixth man and added that he wants to get senior Joel Hale — a converted defensive lineman like both Farris and Baldwin — more action.

“Like to see if we can start factoring (Hale) into the rotation,” Warinner said.

Baldwin said the offensive line is starting to step up its game as the individual players continue to mesh together on the field.

“Coach Warinner is just trying to keep everybody engaged,” Baldwin said Monday. “Offensive line is kind of about getting in a groove, especially with the center and guards you’ve got to trust each other. So we’re just trying to build trust as much as we can.”

Beyond gaining trust in each other, Warinner said there has to be a connection between the offensive line and the quarterback — in this case, redshirt-freshman J.T. Barrett.

Warinner said if the line and the signal caller are on the same page, everyone can perform to the best of their abilities.

“As far as the quarterback, he has his business, and if we take care of ours, his life is better,” Warinner said. “If he takes care of his, our life is better.”

With Barrett just four starts into his OSU career, that connection between him and the line hasn’t always been there for the Buckeyes this season.

Meyer said Barrett needs to work more on his command at the line, and said some mistakes by the linemen came back to the quarterback.

“The negative is we also had a couple false starts,” Meyer said. “And you can say the center, the tackle, the guard, whoever it was, it’s the quarterback.”

While some of those miscommunications can be attributed to Barrett’s youth, Warinner said he doesn’t want to hear his offensive line called young.

“Again, we’re not really young up front, we’re just inexperienced,” Warinner said.

That inexperience brought questions about the line early in the season, but Warinner said anyone “searching for answers” about the unit was outside of the OSU football program.

“That’s not my perception, or that wasn’t our perception,” he said. “The Kent State game we played really well, we knew exactly who we wanted to play. We rotated guys in and then this game (against Cincinnati) we played exactly who we wanted to play, we rotated them in and they played really well.”

As his position coach sees the improvement on the field, Baldwin said two strong games in a row were “needed a lot” by the offensive line after receiving outside disparagement.

“We’ve been getting a lot of criticism this year about how young we are and inexperienced,” he said. “Just to see a game like that come together where we’re … getting yards in the air and on the ground. It’s just adding to all our confidence that we already have.”

The Buckeyes are scheduled to take the field again on Saturday against Maryland in College Park, Md. Kickoff is set for noon in what is scheduled to be the Terrapins’ first-ever Big Ten home game.

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