Despite playing with what coach Urban Meyer called a “makeshift offensive line” during Saturday’s Spring Game, members of the Ohio State football team had nothing but positive things to say about where the starting five blockers are at.
And with four of the five starters from last season’s national championship team back in the fold, it is easy to see why.
Senior Taylor Decker, redshirt-junior Pat Elflein, redshirt-sophomore Billy Price and senior Jacoby Boren all return as members of the “slobs,” the nickname given to the starting offensive line unit.
Only departed tackle Darryl Baldwin’s job was up for grabs before the spring. Meyer announced after the Spring Game, however, that it now belongs to redshirt-senior Chase Farris.
“Chase Farris has earned his way, he’s a starting right tackle at Ohio State,” Meyer said.
Offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Ed Warinner said having a successful season under a group’s belt is the best thing for an offensive line unit.
“It’s amazing how much linemen get better in the offseason, because now they have a visual picture of how it all works,” he said. “Now, when they work on things, it just seems to make sense.”
One player who Meyer and Warinner both said they feel has benefited the most from the offseason is Price, whom Meyer described as “night and day” from where he was last fall.
“Billy has confidence now,” Warinner said. “Confidence comes from playing well in big games down the stretch. He’s so much further along in his development and where he’s at right now.
“Billy’s just so confident in what he’s supposed to do and how he’s supposed to do it and now it just shows.”
Price said OSU’s three postseason games marked a turning point in his playing career.
“Those final three games, something clicked. When we played Wisconsin, and the whole offensive line’s a cohesive unit, and we continued that into Alabama and continued that into Oregon, it just felt like something finally clicked,” Price said.
Despite Boren being held out of the Spring Game as he recovers from offseason surgery, Warinner said he has complete faith in the senior.
“Jacoby’s great,” Warinner said. “Rehab’s good, work ethic’s great, leadership’s great, so expect him to be full speed sometime this summer, ready to be his best.”
Warinner said sometimes the best practice an offensive lineman can get is competing with his own teammates on the other side of the ball. That can be especially beneficial for OSU — which features some of the best practice a player can find in Associated Press first-team All-American and junior defensive lineman Joey Bosa.
“(Elflein) goes against Bosa on a daily basis, and that’s helped him grow and his confidence level,” Warinner said.
While the five starting linemen have the full faith of the coaching staff, Meyer expressed some concern about the players waiting in the wings.
“The area (of worry) is the offensive line. That’s the problem,” Meyer said. “And once again, not the starters, because I feel good (about them) … I’m very alarmed by the second group of offensive linemen right now.”
Price said he feels like a lot of the responsibility in shaping the second unit to be ready to come in on the drop of a hat falls on the starters.
“Working with younger guys, it’s like playing with clay,” Price said. “You get to mold them. As older players like Taylor, Pat and Jacoby, you get to really, really show what type of leadership we have in the room, and to fully develop those guys to become part of the ‘slobs.’”
The “slobs” are set to look to carry over their strong play from last season’s title run when OSU opens its season against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., on Sept. 7.