COLUMBUS — Luckily for Ohio State, first impressions aren’t always accurate.
The Buckeyes’ offensive line — one of the bright spots in a 10-0 start this season — did not get off to a good beginning with the new coaching staff when it took over in January.
After a 52-22 win over Illinois two weeks ago, coach Urban Meyer remembered how four of the offensive line group missed his first team meeting, then didn’t show up for a second meeting.
“We had to do a little 5 a.m. (workout) for a week because of them,” Meyer said. “We had them out in 10-degree weather trying to make a decision to either quit of stay.”
Ohio State’s starting line has won Meyer over now, though. He calls them “really good guys” and said, “It’s almost overwhelming if you think where they were the first week of spring practice to where they are now.”
Offensive line coach Ed Warinner remembers the offensive line no-shows from that first meeting, too.
“They had been notified like the rest of the team,” he said. “I showed up to be introduced as the new offensive line coach and some of them were missing. Not a good first day for those guys in particular, not a good day for my position group. Obviously, there were some issues that needed to be corrected pretty quickly.
“You have 15, 16 or 17 guys, you don’t want to taint the whole group,” Warinner said. “When you come to a new place, everybody gets a clean slate, everybody gets to hit the re-set button. But I knew those guys and some others needed a wake-up call.”
OSU’s starting offensive linemen — tackles Jack Mewhort and Reid Fragel, guards Marcus Hall and Andrew Norwell, and center Corey Linsley — have all started in all 10 games.
The Buckeyes rank first in the Big Ten in scoring (39.9 points a game), No. 2 in total offense (445.3) and No. 2 in rushing (256.1) behind that offensive line.
When Ohio State goes to Wisconsin on Saturday it will be facing a team that has been the gold standard for offensive lines in the Big Ten for at least a decade.
But Warinner says that is not something he or his offensive linemen have given a lot of thought to.
“We don’t want to get into their O-line versus ours. It’s a team game, but obviously when you play someone who has the reputation of having a good offensive line you want to show you have a pretty good offensive line, too.
“But that won’t be a measuring stick. If we win the game, I’ll feel good about that and anything after that will be gravy. That isn’t an angle I’ve used with my guys at all,” he said.
The veteran line coach has gone through the process of building an offensive line several times. The biggest difference at Ohio State might be the speed with which that job was completed.
“That process is just a lot of hard work by a lot of people,” he said about OSU’s offensive line turnaround. “At this place it’s not a three or four-year project. You’ve got three or four months to get where they want you to be.”