GLENDALE, Ariz. — Ohio State fans looking for something to smile about after a Fiesta Bowl walloping didn’t have to wait too long. The storm clouds parked over the fan base grew a little less dark when offensive lineman Billy Price announced in the locker room he will return for his senior season.
It’s been a popular theory that Price, an All-American this season at right guard, could follow the path of Pat Elflein and switch from guard to center prior to his senior season. Price didn’t comment on such speculation during the season, but he confirmed Saturday night that he will take over for Elflein at center.
Here’s what Price’s decision means for Ohio State.
Returning an All-American
First, Price’s decision to stay means Ohio State will return at least one All-American for next season. (Elflein is out of eligibility and Malik Hooker and Curtis Samuel have not yet announced decisions.) It’s never a bad thing to retain high-end talent, especially at a position that touches the ball every play.
“It’ll be the same as when Pat came back,” left tackle Jamarco Jones told Land of 10. “You’ve got a veteran leader and fourth-year starter. He’ll be out there making the calls for us and leading the way. It’s going to be a big help.”
Flexibility to play the best
Ohio State has very few true centers on its roster. Price sliding over opens a spot at guard instead of center, where the Buckeyes are more likely to find a young player capable of filling it. As was the case when Elflein changed positions, the move allows Ohio State to put its five best players on the field. At a spot like offensive line, the value of that can’t be understated.
More time to develop depth at center
Along those same lines, Price’s move also bodes well for the Buckeyes’ future at center. There will come a day when Ohio State doesn’t have a guard well-suited to change spots. The longer that coaches have to build up depth and increase their options, the better off the Buckeyes will be. Had Price left for the pros, the Buckeyes’ top options at center next season would either be guys who were beat out at guard this year by a true freshman or Jack Wohlabaugh, who will be a redshirt freshman in 2017.
Continuing the culture
As a fifth-year senior and four-year starter, Price will be the last remaining link to the 2014 unit that bulldozed its way to a national championship. That group created a standard of excellence at the position. Furthermore, they established a culture that has been maintained throughout the last couple years.
“Taylor Decker was a huge part of this, Jacoby Boren, those guys who kind of set the culture,” Price said. “It’s my job to lead that next year when I come back and play.”
Staying for another year means he’ll not only have another year to impart the culture of that group but also more people to spread it to. The Buckeyes have multiple incoming 5-star offensive linemen who will now get to spend every day with Price.
“It means we’re going to have a great unit leader,” left guard Michael Jordan said. “Guys like Billy have a lot of experience. He’s going to really help us out next year.”
Ohio State captain
In addition to being a leader in the offensive line room, Price is a respected voice in the entire locker room. He’s an automatic choice for captain. His leadership over the next year will be invaluable. Furthermore, there’s always the chance that Meyer names him a captain before spring practice.