Meyer must rebuild Buckeyes in critical areas

Published 3:06 am Friday, April 8, 2016

COLUMBUS (AP) — Of the many holes he’s got to fill on Ohio State’s depleted depth chart, coach Urban Meyer has talked this spring about the offensive and defensive lines as the most critical areas of concern.

That’s easy to understand. Gone from the offensive line are All-American left tackle Taylor Decker, right tackle Chase Farris and center Jacoby Boren. From the defensive front, Joey Bosa has departed for the NFL and likely could be among the first picks in the draft later this month. Also gone are veteran defensive tackles Adolphus Washington and Tommy Schutt.

A good bit of rebuilding is required for sure. Even after coaches settle on starters, depth potentially will be an issue on both lines. Some freshmen and other inexperienced players surely will see significant playing time this fall, which always makes coaches uneasy.

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On offense, fifth-year senior Pat Elflein is sliding will over from right guard to the critical position of center, and Billy Price returns at left guard. Jamarco Jones, who played behind Decker the last two seasons, is the likely starter at left tackle. Those three are the anchors. Isaiah Prince, who played little as a freshman last year, appears to be the top candidate at right tackle.

Early enrolled freshman Michael Jordan is earning raves from Meyer and offensive line coach Greg Studrawa this spring. They’re talking about the possibility of the 6-foot-7, 316-pound Jordan starting at guard as a freshman, which is an exceedingly rare occurrence on the offensive line at Ohio State.

“For a freshman who should still be in high school and graduated early to be here at this level of football doing the things he’s doing, yes, I’m surprised and impressed with that,” said Studrawa, who joined Meyer’s staff in January after stints at Maryland and Louisiana State.

On the defensive front, the lone returning starter is end Tyquan Lewis, who is recovering from shoulder surgery but should be good to go in the fall. Redshirt sophomore Sam Hubbard is preparing to step in for Bosa, a game-changer who drew double teams and generally worried everybody on the other side of the ball. Hubbard played a lot last year as a pass rusher and had 6 1/2 sacks, which ranked second on the team behind Lewis’ eight.

Defensive line coach Larry Johnson said Hubbard came to spring camp heavier and stronger.

“Sam is young, so the expectation is really high for him,” said. “So Sam’s got to realize that, he’s going to be targeted….What Sam has got to do is continue to work hard. He’s got to move the bar. He can’t stay where he’s at and be satisfied with what he did last year.”

A handful of other inexperienced players will be expected to contribute on the defensive line in the fall, including Bosa’s brother Nick, one of the nation’s most heralded recruits. Johnson said Nick Bosa could have an immediate impact.

“We really want to have an eight-to-10-man rotation and we’re at seven or eight guys who can play, and we just want to keep improving on that,” Hubbard said.

BEG YOUR PARDON: Highly prized offensive line recruit Landon Young issued an apology to Meyer via Twitter after earlier criticizing the way he was treated during the recruiting process. Young had told that he was “treated like crap” and “a piece of meat” when he visited Ohio State before signing with Kentucky. The 6-foot-7, 270-pound Lexington, Kentucky, product felt dissed because OSU didn’t extend a scholarship offer early. Meyer addressed it this week saying, “I was very disappointed in our staff that we didn’t offer him earlier. Then about the treating him bad, we don’t do that on purpose, if that’s his feelings. I went back and talked to our staff about it because we don’t want that to be out there. But when you have one out of 650 that say someone was treated bad…” On Wednesday, Young posted on his Twitter page that his earlier comments “in no way reflect my feelings” about Meyer and OSU.