July 8, 2012

Interior line a strong spot for Buckeyes

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Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham

With Ohio State's fall camp a month away from kicking off, we at Buckeye Grove have decided to take a look at the roster that Urban Meyer will be working with in his first year as Ohio State's head coach. Today, we'll take a look at the current state of the Buckeyes' interior offensive line. You can see yesterday's preview of the Ohio State offensive tackles by clicking here.

Although nearly every position on the Ohio State roster- from the running backs to the wide receivers to the offensive tackles- seems to be littered with question marks, perhaps the one place where things seem to be set in stone for the Buckeyes is at the heart of their offense: the interior line.

A position of inconsistency a season ago thanks to constant reshuffling due to suspensions, injuries, and inefficiencies, the Buckeyes' offensive guards and centers have seamlessly fallen into place over the course of spring camp, and it all starts in the middle with center Corey Linsley.

A fourth-year junior who played guard during his first three seasons at Ohio State, Linsley has taken control of the Buckeyes' center spot, so much so that it caused true sophomore Brian Bobek to transfer from Ohio State at the end of spring camp. One of the Buckeyes' strongest players, Linsley has left little doubt as to who will be snapping the ball to Braxton Miller on Sept. 1.

"I have gotten a lot tougher and my work ethic is back in gear and I also feel like I have got a lot of tangibles better, my feet are quicker, I am stronger, more athletic, faster," The 6-foot-3, 292-pound Linsley said. "I really feel that through our strength staff is what my personal thing is that I have gotten best at."

Another reason for Bobek's transfer was the emergence of true freshman Jacoby Boren as Linsley's back-up. The brother of Buckeyes' fullback Zach Boren and former offensive lineman Justin Boren, Jacoby enrolled early at Ohio State as a three-star recruit out of Pickerington Central high school. At 6-foot-2, 283 pounds, Boren has put on the necessary size to play if needed in his first year of college football.

Playing to the left of Linsley will be another established starter in junior left guard Andrew Norwell. The 6-foot-6, 304-pound Norwell started at left tackle for five games in 2011 before becoming Ohio State's left guard for the remainder of the season, where he proved to be one of the few bright spots on the Buckeyes' offensive line.

Backing up Norwell at left guard this season will be redshirt freshman Tommy Brown. At 6-foot-2, 310 pounds, the Akron Firestone product has the ideal size to play guard in the Big Ten, but his lack of experience could hurt the Buckeyes should Norwell miss any games in 2012.

Starting on the other side of Linsley at the start of fall camp will be fourth-year junior Marcus Hall. A product of Glenville high school in Cleveland, Ohio, Hall has bounced around the offensive line during his Ohio State career, spending time at both guard positions and right tackle. Thanks to his experience and size (6-foot-6, 317 pounds), Hall is a safe bet to start for the Buckeyes in their season-opener against Miami University, but his inconsistencies make the right guard spot one of the bigger question marks on the OSU offensive line.

True sophomore Antonio Underwood will be Hall's back-up at right guard, and could eventually work his way into the starting line-up. The 6-foot-2, 301-pound Underwood saw some time at right tackle in 2011, but a move to guard was inevitable due to his size.

Despite the inconsistencies that they showed a year ago, new Ohio State coach Urban Meyer is confident that the Buckeyes' offensive line has turned a corner this past offseason.

"That was off a group that was not very productive a year ago," Meyer said. "Their bodies are changing, attitudes are changing."

Other Buckeyes who could work their way onto the offensive line's depth chart this season include incoming freshmen Pat Elfein and Joey O'Connor. Elfein, a 6-foot-3, 283-pound three-star recruit will almost certainly play guard throughout his Ohio State career, while the 6-foot-4, 295-pound four-star recruit O'Connor could play anywhere on the line.

Other offensive linemen on the OSU roster include walk-on sophomores Eric Kramer, Ben St. John, and freshman walk-on Tim Trummer.


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