The left side of the offensive line as well as the center for Ohio State appear fairly set heading into the 2017 season.
The same cannot be said about the right side.
Questions remain about who will start at the right guard position, and though junior Isaiah Prince is practically locked in as the starter at right tackle, his 2016 season raised suspicions of his capabilities at the position. But the one player who appears in coach Urban Meyer’s plans is redshirt sophomore Branden Bowen who could enter the picture for the right guard spot.
“It’s (redshirt junior) Malcolm (Pridgeon), (redshirt sophomore Matt) Burrell, (redshirt junior Demetrius) Knox and still slashed,” Meyer said Monday indicating the three players are at a tie for the starting job. “The other guy that’s playing well is Bowen. I don’t know if we’ll move him to guard, but he’s earning some time.”
A season ago, Bowen appeared in all 13 games for the Buckeyes, serving primarily as Prince’s backup at right tackle, but has got the attention of Meyer and his fellow linemates this offseason.
Sophomore left guard Michael Jordan cited noticeable improvements in Bowen’s game from this summer and believes that he could be a real contender for playing time this season, even with Prince standing out as one of the most improved players early in fall practice.
“He’s getting a lot better. He’s improved so much from last year,” Jordan said Monday. “He understands the plays more. He’s more violent. He’s overall just a much better offensive lineman.”
Though Bowen took his reps almost exclusively at right tackle last season, he could shift to the left side of the line to find playing time.
Offensive line coach Greg Studrawa said Bowen has practiced in both the guard and tackle positions this spring, leaving open the possibility that Bowen could provide depth at both spots.
Studrawa admitted that he often held his breath last season in case one of the members of his line went down with an injury due to questionable depth behind the starters. This season, however, that is no longer a concern.
“I feel like I can breathe a little bit,” Studrawa said Monday. “If someone were to get hurt last year, there was not that confidence in those backups at all.”
Adding Bowen’s name to the mix creates quite the crowd of players competing for the starting spot, and with no one yet establishing themselves as the frontrunner, Studrawa said Bowen could come away on top.
“Right now, we’re just trying to develop some fundamental toughness, get the fundamentals and things in and then start working on them,” Studrawa said. “But right now, it’s a wide open competition.”