Ohio State football: Filling hole at center tops Urban Meyer’s spring to-do list
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Who will emerge as the player to succeed Billy Price at center. This is the glaring issue facing the offense this year.
— Tom Scurlock (@TAS1372) March 5, 2018
There is obviously no need to press a panic button after one spring practice without pads, but Urban Meyer made it very clear after Ohio State opened camp this week which position is going to get the most attention from him over the next six weeks. The battle at center might not come with all the hoopla that surrounds the quarterback position, but it’s certainly the question that the Buckeyes are more concerned about answering at this point.
That might seem a bit strange since Ohio State needs a new starter at the most important position on the field. But Meyer always has had center high on his priority list of key spots on his roster, and after a solid run throughout his tenure anchoring the offensive line with players who never gave him any reason to worry about performance or leadership, it’s understandable why he’d publicly put some pressure on the candidates trying to fulfill the duties in the middle. After back-to-back seasons with Rimington Trophy winners snapping the football, the standard is already enormously high. Meyer has added some urgency to the mix, likely in an effort to get the depth chart sorted out heading into the summer.
“I don’t know who is going to be our center,” Meyer said. “I know we have some people that are going to go after it. … Center is every bit important as quarterback. I don’t know if they’re great players or not.
“There’s a lot of pressure on that one.”
Meyer publicly challenging Brady Taylor, Josh Myers, Matt Burrell or a wildcard such as Joshua Alabi only dials up the heat on those contenders. As long as he’s been around, and as much of a motivational mastermind as he’s been throughout his career, Meyer obviously is aware of what he’s doing by singling out that spot.
Ohio State’s offense can’t thrive without a steady hand at center, and it really hasn’t had to deal with this level of uncertainty there since Meyer arrived. Yes, Billy Price and Pat Elflein were converted guards, but both of them already had proved to be elite performers in meaningful games before making that transition. The Buckeyes don’t know yet whether the years serving as a backup will help Taylor make a seamless transition into the starting lineup. And if it doesn’t appear that way early in camp, a former touted recruit such as Myers or even an early enrollee such as Matthew Jones could get looks to fill the void.
At this point, Taylor still deserves to be the favorite to win the job. But if nothing else, he’s been put on notice right away that Meyer will be watching him closely ― with an even sharper eye than the one he’ll have on the quarterbacks.
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