COLUMBUS — Ohio State offensive line coach Ed Warinner calls the Buckeyes’ line a “work in progress.”
But it is also a construction project that appears to be quite a bit closer to completion than it was a few weeks ago.
Rushing for 204 yards against a highly regarded Michigan State defense in a 17-16 win last week has the Buckeyes hoping that performance will continue when Nebraska comes to Ohio Stadium on Saturday night.
“We’re not a finished product there,” Warinner said about his linemen. “We still have a lot of things to grow and clean up and get better at, but they’re really playing hard and starting to understand what we want in a spread offense.”
Coach Urban Meyer named the offensive line as OSU’s offensive player of the week for the Michigan State game. Obviously, he liked what he saw.
“I saw toughness. They found a way to rush for 200 yards against a stout group that doesn’t give up much,” Meyer said.
Tackle Jack Mewhort and guard Andrew Norwell were the only returning starters from last year’s offensive line. Center Corey Linsley and guard Marcus Hall were back-ups a year ago and tackle Reid Fragel played tight end.
Mewhort admits the offensive line hasn’t been accustomed to hearing a lot of praise in recent years at Ohio State, especially during a 6-7 season last year.
“Last year hurt us a little bit. We have to redeem ourselves, pull ourselves back from that. We’ve been kicked a lot, a lot of things have been said about us,” Mewhort said.
Playing a position where your good plays often go unrecognized by the public while your mistakes are focused on requires the ability to see things in terms of the big picture, he said.
“You’re not getting all the glory or anything. But to us what we’re doing is just as important as the quarterback throwing the touchdown pass,” Mewhort said.
“As an offensive lineman, you just have to have that mindset that you’re doing your job for the guys next to you and you’re not going to show up in the headlines but what you’re doing is just as important as what everybody else is doing.”
The newcomer to the line and this mindset is Fragel, who switched from tight end to offensive tackle in January.
Meyer said, “Reid Fragel has become an offensive lineman. He wasn’t an offensive lineman the first couple weeks. He was a tight end playing offensive tackle, trying to figure it out. These last two games he has become an Ohio State offensive lineman.”
Warinner described Fragel’s transition this way:
“We tried to look at some of the pieces in front of us, not knowing a lot about any of them, maybe watching some film. But it just seemed like we were short some pieces at tackle. We thought it might re-energize a guy who had been kind of a role player at tight end,” he said.
“All of a sudden here’s a chance to go fight to become a starter and have a chance to make an impact. Reid didn’t squawk about it, he was all in.
“He has worked his butt off. He’s starting to play well. That’s a whole different deal playing tackle instead of tight end. The last two games he has played really well for us,” he said.