Total scholarship players: 13
Average class: Sophomore
Average star ranking: 3.6
Total returning starts: 32
Like the receivers, this group pleased the Ohio State coaching staff with its progress during the spring. With (from left to right) Jack Mewhort, Andrew Norwell, Corey Linsley, Marcus Hall and Reid Fragel securing starting jobs, the top unit is considered at worst solid and perhaps a strength heading into the fall.
Mewhort – assuming he is able to regain his status as a full member of the team following a legal scrape in early summer – and Norwell return after starting all of last season as sophomores while classmates Linsley and Hall move up to the starting unit after seeing part-time action in 2011.
Linsley takes over the No. 1 center job after rededicating himself to the game during the winter, and Mewhort has the look of a significant leader in the fray and in the huddle.
The biggest question mark in the top unit lies at right tackle, where Fragel is not only the only senior but also the only player without game experience on the offensive line. He moved to the position during the winter after three seasons at tight end and won a starting job, but he must hold off freshman Taylor Decker when practice commences in August.
Decker was one of Meyer’s pre-signing day recruiting coups, and he left little doubt about why his services were coveted by many colleges by hitting the practice field ready to go in March. He is the top backup at both tackle spots and could push Fragel for a starting role before the season is over.
Next in line at guard are sophomore Antonio Underwood and redshirt freshman Tommy Brown, players whose spring growth gave the staff confidence it could move Chris Carter to the defensive side of the ball.
Meyer is hopeful Jacoby Boren, another freshman who enrolled in January, can back up Linsley at center, but Boren will have to complete rehabilitation from shoulder surgery first.
The starters have the look of a strong run-blocking unit, but how well they protect the passer remains to be seen.
Meyer’s rebuilding of the long-under-recruited offensive line began with his successful pursuit of Decker, fellow four-star tackle Kyle Dodson of Cleveland Heights and Windsor, Colo., guard Joey O’Connor this past winter, but the job is far from finished.
That much is evident from the ability of Decker and Boren to jump right into the fray and compete favorably during spring practice.
Meyer included Dodson among freshmen who will enroll in June with the potential to vie for a spot in the two-deep this fall, where he will also find sophomore Daryl Baldwin, a former defensive lineman, as further competition.
Three-star prospects O’Connor and Patrick Elflein figure to push Brown and Underwood for backup roles on the interior line.
For 2013, the offensive line class so far consists only of Evan Lisle, a four-star tackle prospect from traditional Ohio high school power Centerville, but a handful of other players are being evaluated during the summer camp season. That group includes southwestern Ohioans Kyle Meadows of West Chester Lakota West, Sean Welsh of Springboro and Lovell Peterson of Huber Heights Wayne.
Current status: Shaky
Future outlook: Improving