Ohio State should have improved depth on offensive line

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Ohio State interviews, Aug. 7: Offensive linemen

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Competition at right guard is one of key position battles

Ohio State Buckeyes offensive linemen don’t throw around the Slobs nickname as much as they did two years ago when Vandalia Butler graduate Taylor Decker led the unit. Senior left tackle Jamarco Jones isn’t sure what happened to it.

“You guys should try to figure something out for us,” Jones told reporters on Monday after practice. “Take a little poll and see what we should be called.”

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If offensive line coach Greg Studrawa had his say, he would just call the unit improved. That’s the goal in 2017. The line had its struggles a season ago. Studrawa admitted he held his breath at times because he knew the group lacked depth.

“If someone would have got hurt last year, there was no confidence in those backups at all,” Studrawa said. “That’s why we’re trying to so hard to build depth so if something does happen at a crucial time, they’re ready. They’re not ready to go fail. They’re ready to get the job done and we can count on them, and they’re accountable to everybody on this team.”

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The Buckeyes lost one starter on the line: center Pat Elflein, the 2016 Rimington Trophy winner who was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the third round. Fifth-year senior Billy Price moves from right guard to take Elflein’s spot at center. Jones, sophomore left guard Michael Jordan and junior right tackle Isaiah Prince also return.

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Four players are competing for the starting job at right guard: redshirt junior Malcolm Pridgeon; redshirt sophomore Matthew Burrell; redshirt junior Demetrius Knox; and redshirt sophomore Brandon Bowen, who could move from tackle to guard.

“The competition so far has been excellent,” Studrawa said. “There’s a lot of guys. Malcolm’s playing well. Burrell’s playing well. Knox is playing well. Bowen’s playing well. He might end up in that spot. Right now we’re just trying to develop some fundamental toughness. We’ll get the fundamentals in and then start working them. But right now it’s a wide-open competition.”

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Studrawa would love to rotate two guys at the right position position. Ideally, he would have enough confidence in eight to 10 offensive linemen to plug them in when needed. At the very least, he needs three quality back-ups: one at center, one at guard and one at tackle.

Miamisburg's Josh Myers, a freshman who enrolled in January, is among the players competing with the second unit at guard.

“We’ve got a lot of time right now,” Studrawa said. “The best thing they’re doing is giving effort and straining and fighting for it. There’s nothing better than competition when there’s an open job.”

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