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Football: Offensive line leading the charge for Ohio State offensive production

Ohio State senior offensive lineman Billy Price (54) prepares for the snap during the first quarter of the OSU vs. MSU game on Nov. 11 at Ohio Stadium. Ohio State won 48-3. Credit: Ris Twigg | Assistant Photo Editor

Ohio State’s offense did whatever it wanted to do against Michigan State Saturday.

In the 48-3 win, the Buckeyes ran up 524 yards of offense, 335 coming on the ground and 189 through the air.

The players who piled up all the yards received the bulk of the credit for the success, but Dobbins gave all the credit elsewhere.

“[The offensive linemen] always block like that,” freshman running back J.K. Dobbins said Saturday. “Whenever I run the ball, I feel like they block tremendous. Today, they did an outstanding job, but that’s what they do all the time.”

After the Michigan State game, Ohio State’s coaching staff graded the starters at both guard and tackle positions as champions — an honor bestowed on players who play well in a game — while naming redshirt senior center Billy Price as the offensive player of the game. Price made his 51st consecutive start, setting the program record.

The Buckeyes’ offensive line allowed just two tackles for a loss Saturday, accounting for just four lost yards. Matched up against the No. 3 rush defense in the nation, the offensive line proved it was up to the task, protecting quarterback J.T. Barrett and freeing up holes all night for running backs Mike Weber and Dobbins.

On Ohio State’s sixth offensive play of the game, Price made a pair of blocks to free up a hole for Weber, who burst through effortlessly and sprinted 47 yards to the end zone to put the Buckeyes up 7-0.

Price said on the block he was able to get a good read on the blitz from the defense, and with the help of right guard Demetrius Knox, was able to open the hole up the middle for Weber.

“I felt [Knox] and was able to come back off a linebacker, open that hole and Mike just did what Mike’s supposed to do,” Price said after the game.

Even when the team was blown out 55-24 against Iowa, the line still held strong for much of the game. Barrett was given ample time to throw the ball throughout the night and Ohio State averaged 5.4 yards per carry. The line only allowed one sack and no other tackles for loss.

Dobbins said that even though the yardage stood out more against Michigan State, the line was still productive against the Hawkeyes.

“The O-line was blocking well last week in the running game,” Dobbins said Saturday. “I wouldn’t say we were reborn.”

The line did not initially begin the season with consistent success. After the first several weeks, questions began to re-emerge about right tackle Isaiah Prince and right guard Branden Bowen, who was making the transition from offensive tackle and had never held a starting role.

But as the season went on, the line began to settle and gel. Even as the unit started to click, questions about the depth persisted. The coaches voiced concerns about the ability for someone to step up should an offensive linemen be injures.

Then just as the line seemed to be hitting its stride, it was dealt a blow with the loss of Bowen, who broke his leg against Maryland. Knox, who replaced Bowen, has helped provide some stability to the right of Price.

“Bowen got hurt and Demetrius Knox came in and graded a champion again. I think that’s three games that he’s graded at champion,” Meyer said Monday.

The depth is still not where Ohio State would like it, Meyer said. Even though Knox has filled in admirably, further injuries could prove detrimental to the team’s success moving down the line. Against Iowa, when left tackle Jamarco Jones was down on the field with an injury and had to leave for a play, redshirt sophomore Joshua Alabi came in and was immediately targeted by the Hawkeye pass rush.

As for the production of the starters, the line appears to be clicking just as the Buckeyes prepare for matchups against Illinois and Michigan, which has the nation’s No. 9 rush defense. And should the Buckeyes advance to the Big Ten championship game and face Wisconsin, they will square off against the top-ranked rush defense in the league.

“I think [offensive line coach Greg Studrawa’s] done a wonderful job with them. I think the intentions and the intensity is there, the intentional work that they have at practice each week, it’s been good, and we are down to our sixth guy [Knox],” Meyer said. “We’re moving in the right direction.”

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