CINCINNATI – Urban Meyer walked into his post-Spring Game press conference having spent all 40 minutes of the intrasquad scrimmage mere steps away from the backfield. There, he had a front-row seat to watch the Ohio State defense slice through the offensive line throughout the game.
Meyer indicated his concerns for the offensive line could occupy his free time.
“It’s going to cause me some nights wondering what we’re going to do at the right tackle spot,” Meyer said of the competition for the starting right tackle position between redshirt sophomore Chase Farris and sophomore Taylor Decker.
For Meyer, a man who said he would recommit himself to healthy sleeping habits and family time upon arriving at OSU in November 2011, the suggestion of being preoccupied by football-related issues away from the workplace might be startling.
Meyer, however, probably isn’t alone in being worried about the Buckeyes’ offensive line after what took place on Saturday. The OSU offensive linemen, a unit Meyer touts as the best in the Big Ten last season, was diced for 11 sacks during the Scarlet team’s 31-14 victory against the Gray team at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.
All four of OSU’s quarterbacks who played were sacked in the game. Even junior Braxton Miller, the most elusive of the Buckeyes’ quarterbacks, was run down for a game-high seven sacks. The sophomore defensive line tandem of Adolphus Washington and Noah Spence combined for seven sacks in the game, tallying four and three, respectively.
Possible excuses for the 11-sack outing by the offensive line were available to the Buckeyes but none were used. The unit is attempting to replace former right tackle Reid Fragel, the 2011 honorable mention all-Big Ten player whose void has created an opening that two unproven sophomores are attempting to fill. Additionally, OSU redshirt senior offensive lineman Jack Mewhort, a likely candidate to help captain the 2013 Buckeyes, and redshirt senior center Corey Linsley were held out of the game due to injury.
Still, the offensive line’s outing elicited indiscriminate criticism from Meyer.
“You can’t play with four linemen. One of those young players has got to step up and they haven’t this spring,” Meyer said after the game. “To be the best offense in the Big Ten, you have to have five guys up front, which we had last year.”
The “young players” Meyer referenced likely include Farris and Decker, who were not made available for comment after the game.
But his criticism wasn’t limited to the sophomores battling for a starting role – he singled out veteran linemen as well.
“Our guards were not all-Big Ten guards last year, (redshirt senior offensive lineman) Marcus Hall and (senior offensive lineman Andrew) Norwell, and they should be,” Meyer said. “They’re tough. They’re great kids, we just got to get them to fit better and get the bend in their lower back and some technical things, but that’s why I played them.”
One of those veterans, Mewhort, said the offensive line needs to make strides this summer as the team continues preparation for another season of high expectations.
“Coming out of it, we know we have a lot to improve on,” Mewhort said of the Spring Game. “I know guys worked their butts off all spring and worked really hard and no one backed away from competition, so that was really good to see … We still have a long way to go.”