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2016 OSU Spring Positional Recap: Offensive Line
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS — The Buckeyes came into this spring needing to replace three starters — including an NFL First Round draft pick at left tackle. Literally and figuratively, that is a tall order, and yet it was only one of three major areas of concern.

While those three spots needed to be filled, however, there was a pretty good idea of who would fill them — or at least who would be the major contenders to fill them. That plan worked fairly well until a true freshman came along and made the coaches reexamine their thinking.

Starters Returning: Pat Elflein (C) (6-3 300, rSr); Billy Price (G) (6-4 315, rJr)

Pat Elflein made the move from guard to center over the offseason and picked it up very well. He played well enough that he also got plenty of time off during the spring, which allowed for his backup Brady Taylor to get some very good reps.

New offensive line coach Greg Studrawa said the position move has fit Elflein exceedingly well.

"Really, really comfortable," Studrawa said of Elflein's new role. "And that was my thing, was to get him in situations and snapping and doing all of the things that we ask our center to do and see how comfortable he was with the technique. He’s surpassed where I thought he would be. So getting him working and putting him in new situations every day to see something that he hasn’t seen and see how he handles it from the center spot, he’s been really good at that."

Billy Price, meanwhile, moved from the left side to the right side to accommodate a few younger guards who were more comfortable on the left side. Price spent time in the spring working on his pass blocking, which Studrawa said was an area that needed improvement.

"I sat down and looked at all of these guys and then met with them before spring ball about, ‘Here’s what I see in your game, here’s what I think you’re good at, and here’s what I think we need to work on,'" he said. "And one of the things that we needed to work on with Billy is — you know, obviously he’s a tough son of a gun and he’s strong, so he tries to overpower people — so getting him a little bit patient in his pass set was one thing that I said, 'We could work on this and you won’t get beat.' He’s done a great job and if you watch him it’s tough to beat that guy."

Others Returning: Isaiah Prince (T) (6-7 305, So); Grant Schmidt (6-6 300, rFr); Jamarco Jones (T) (6-5 310, Jr); Kevin Feder (T) (6-9 305, rFr); Demetrius Knox (G) (6-4 305, rSo); Brady Taylor (C) (6-5 300, rSo); Matthew Burrell (G) (6-4 300, rFr); Kyle Trout (6-6 310, rSo); Evan Lisle (G) (6-6 305, rJr); Branden Bowen (T) (6-7 320, rFr)

Ohio State went into the spring with Jamarco Jones and Isaiah Prince as their two tackles, with Jones on the left side and Prince on the right side. That is also how they ended spring, and both Studrawa and Urban Meyer were pretty satisfied that they had found a pair of tackles that could solidify their flanks.

Jones was fairly outstanding all the way through the spring, and dominated in the spring game to cap the camp. Prince had his moments, as well as some struggles, but there aren't too many concerns about where he will be as a player when the 2016 season finally gets here.

"Up front, the young linemen are coming around," offensive coordinator Ed Warinner said. "Isaiah Prince is coming around. Jamarco, we always thought would be a starter here and Jamarco right now looks good, is very comfortable at left tackle."

"I would say they’re solid," Studrawa added. "Those guys are doing well. I’m really pleased with Isaiah and Jamarco at the tackle spots. And then bringing Branden Bowen along, letting him come along. He’s getting better every day. A young guy, I’m pleased there."

The Buckeyes were still searching for a fourth offensive tackle during the spring, and it's not clear that they found him. That may change in the summer when 5-star junior college transfer Malcolm Pridgeon arrives, however.

To begin spring camp there were three players competing for the open guard spot. Evan Lisle started with the ones on the first day, and then Matthew Burrell and Demetrius Knox got their opportunities as well. Knox got quite a few reps playing in place of the veteran Price at right guard.

The story of the open guard spot really took a turn when freshman Michael Jordan was given an opportunity, and he has yet to give the position back.

"Well, you have Evan Lisle and Demetrius Knox, both are doing a very fine job," Studrawa said of the open position. "I like both, the way they are, they’re athletic and they’re strong kids. And then Matt Burrell and Michael Jordan — two young guys are in there battling for that spot. So it’s that time of year, we want to find five guys that can jell together. Get the best five on the field and get them working. The good thing is we’ve got a lot of guys to choose from right now, it’s just a process of figuring that out."

Newcomers: Michael Jordan (G) (6-7 315, Fr); Tyler Gerald (G) (6-5 330, Fr); Malcolm Pridgeon (T) (6-8 325, Jr); Gavin Cupp (G) (6-5 295, Fr); Jack Wohlabaugh (C) (6-4 285)

Michael Jordan and Tyler Gerald were the only two early enrollees, and Jordan was the only one of the two who was able to participate in spring practice. Gerald sat out due to an injury.

Jordan began the spring as a reserve tackle, but was eventually given a shot at guard, and he made the absolute most of it. He spent the last two weeks or so as the team's No. 1 left guard. The battle will reopen during fall camp, but so far the staff has absolutely loved what they have gotten to see from Jordan.

"For a freshman who should still be in high school, who graduated early to be here at this level of football, doing the things that he’s doing, yes, I’m surprised and impressed at that," Studrawa said.

"He’s a big man that’s really extremely talented physically. He can move and do a lot of things, so athletically he can overcompensate for a bad step or a bad hand placement. That’s the thing that surprised me the most about him. And he’s a really intelligent young man. You tell him things one time and he picks it up really quickly."

Two Deep

LT
Jamarco Jones (6-5 310, Jr)
Branden Bowen (6-7 320, rFr)

LG
Michael Jordan (6-7 316, Fr)
Matthew Burrell (6-4 300, rFr)

C
Pat Elflein (6-3 300, rSr)
Brady Taylor (6-5 300, rSo)

RG
Billy Price (6-4 315, rJr)
Demetrius Knox (6-4 305, rSo)

RT
Isaiah Prince (6-7 305, So)
Branden Bowen (6-7 320, rFr)

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