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Football: Ohio State values versatility and ability on offensive line

Ohio State then senior offensive lineman Billy Price (54) talks to linemen Michael Jordan (73) and Jamarco Jones (74) prior to a play in the second quarter of the B1G Championship game against Wisconsin on Dec. 2 in Lucas Oil Stadium. Ohio State won 27-21. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Managing Editor for Design

Ohio State junior offensive lineman Michael Jordan played with both Pat Elflein and Billy Price, former Ohio State guards who switched to center in their final year of eligibility. Starting at guard from the moment he stepped foot onto campus, Jordan did not expect that he would continue the trend.

Despite never playing center before in his college career, Jordan was offered to continue the trend by offensive line coach Greg Studrawa. The third-year lineman said he thought he might be offered the job at some point in his collegiate career, but said he was not forced to move if he did not want to.

The final decision to move Jordan to center came down to one of the main ideas Studrawa has brought to his offensive line room since he arrived at Ohio State.

“Just the fact that we could have the best five guys out there at one time,” Jordan said.

With Jordan moving to the middle, a spot opened up at the left guard position; a spot fifth-year senior Malcolm Pridgeon had been preparing for all training camp.

Even if the left guard spot had not opened up with Jordan changing positions, Pridgeon knew he had to work to earn playing time on the offensive line.

“I didn’t look at the opportunity like that in camp,” Pridgeon said. “I just knew that this summer, I knew I had to get in my playbook and really grind it out and I did.”

Pridgeon was joined on the left side of the line by another player who switched sides on the Ohio State offensive line.

After being listed as the No. 2 right tackle behind then-junior lineman Isaiah Prince on the Cotton Bowl depth chart, sophomore Thayer Munford made the move from the right to the left side of the line, taking the starting tackle spot.

Initially listed as co-starters with junior Joshua Alabi, Munford has recovered from his hip flexor injury that limited him to splitting the starting role in the season opener.

The position switch did not faze Munford at all, saying he does not care where he plays as long as he plays.

“I’m comfortable anywhere,” Munford said. “ It doesn’t matter where I am as long as I just go hard and do what’s best for the team.”  

This mentality is what has worked for Studrawa’s offensive line: emphasize versatility and rotation to get the best five linemen on the field at one time. That strategy worked again on Saturday afternoon.

The Ohio State running game recorded 375 yards on the ground against Oregon State, with rushers averaging 7.1 yards per rush and scoring five touchdowns on the ground. Also, in pass protection, the offensive line blocked redshirt sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins effectively, allowing no sacks and one quarterback hit.

Jordan said much of that success had to do with the offensive line having to go up against the Ohio State defensive line in practice. He said as he was learning the center position, he had to learn quickly, specifically mentioning blocking defenders like junior defensive tackle Robert Landers.

Adjusting to his new role as the center on the offensive line, having to direct the rest of the line on who to block and being that leader in the middle, Jordan said he did not really feel fully comfortable at the position until after Saturday’s season opener.

However, Jordan represents the idea of versatility and ability that the Ohio State offensive line strives to have, something that Munford said the unit proved against the Beavers.

“To be honest with you, we just some dogs,” Munford said. “The whole offensive line are just some dogs. We will go over there and just beat the living crap out of everybody. It doesn’t matter who you are.”  

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