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OSU offensive line hosts challenges and blessings for coach Greg Studrawa

OSU redshirt senior offensive lineman Pat Elflein (65) during a game against Northern Illinois on Sept. 19 at Ohio Stadium. Credit: Lantern File Photo

OSU redshirt senior offensive lineman Pat Elflein (65) during a game against Northern Illinois on Sept. 19 at Ohio Stadium. Credit: Lantern File Photo

When it was decided that co-offensive coordinator Ed Warinner would move over from coaching the offensive line to coach tight ends, coach Urban Meyer turned to an old friend for the open position.

Entering his 19th season as a Division I offensive line coach or offensive coordinator, Greg Studrawa is in charge of revamping Ohio State’s offensive line and replacing three starters on an offensive line that won 26 games in two seasons. This is Studrawa’s first year on staff with the Buckeyes since 1997 when he served as a graduate assistant.

Studrawa coached the offensive line at Bowling Green under coach Meyer from 2001-2002. He stayed coaching the Falcons when Meyer left for Utah in 2003, but Studrawa eventually moved on to greener pastures down in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. At LSU, he coached for seven seasons, winning a national championship against OSU in 2007 and losing to Alabama in the championship game in 2011.

After two seasons at Maryland, Studrawa — native of Fostoria, Ohio — returns to Columbus to face a task he described as daunting.

“The No. 1 thing up front, I think, is experience. We don’t have a lot of it,” Studrawa said. “The second thing is getting them in there and playing together.”

On Aug. 14 at OSU’s media day, Meyer announced that junior offensive tackle Malcolm Pridgeon would be out three months and would have to undergo knee surgery. Depth and maturity on the offensive line was already a concern for the Buckeyes before Pridgeon was ruled out.

Meyer said on Monday that the guys second on the depth chart on the offensive line are not near game ready. However, it appears those players took that comment to heart and have taken a step forward. Studrawa said he couldn’t be happier how the two-deep offensive lineman are progressing and maturing.

“Their desire to be good, their desire to live up to what the culture of past o-lines here have been … I’ve never seen anything like that in such young guys,” Studrawa said.

If OSU is to have any success up front and allow junior quarterback J.T. Barrett to make the plays he’s capable of making, Studrawa understands he may have to lean on his younger guys.

True freshman Michael Jordan is leading at the left guard position currently with a couple other first-year players on the second-string depth chart. Redshirt freshman Branden Bowen is the backup tackle on the right and left side for OSU, and freshman linemen Tyler Gerald and Gavin Cupp are taking reps with the second-string.

With new guys running out there with “The Slobs,” redshirt junior right guard Billy Price said there will be growing pains, but he acknowledged there were those same tribulations in 2014 when he and the Buckeyes won the national title. The third-year starter said the culture on the offensive line existed well before he started his freshman year; the drive and maturity makes the difference.

“We could be just as good or we could be better,” Price said. “It comes down to the player and if they want it and as a unit to continue to push and strive for excellence.”

Price might be one of the more experienced players on the Buckeye roster, but he said that it’s redshirt senior center Pat Elflein’s group, and he doesn’t want to take that away from him.

Elflein underwent a minor offseason scope surgery on his shoulder, but he said that he took full reps on Wednesday and he’ll be a full participant in practice next week getting ready for the team’s first game against one of Studrawa’s former teams, Bowling Green.

Having Elflein on the field, a player who knows the ins and outs of every part of the offense, Studrawa said it makes his job less overwhelming.

“It’s unbelievable. They have confidence when Pat is out there making calls just like if I was standing right there,” he said. “There is a calming factor with him out there for the young guys.”

Studrawa said he can’t name a starting five right now, but he’s enjoying the process.

“The good thing is that there is great competition,” he said. “I think there are more than five guys — seven guys right now — that can earn that starting job.”

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