COLUMBUS, Ohio — Put away the pitchforks. Ohio State’s starters on the offensive line are here to stay.
Against Penn State, the Buckeyes gave up six sacks and 11 tackles for loss in a performance reminiscent of the 2014 loss to Virginia Tech. But like then, no changes to the personnel will be coming.
“Conversations about any personnel changes usually go on today,” Meyer said Monday. “I don’t foresee that. But we need to improve. I don’t think we played our best game.”
Anyone looking at the situation honestly and realistically probably came to that same conclusion. Center Pat Elflein and right guard Billy Price are three-year starters who have both been mentioned as All-American candidates this season. After 5-star JUCO offensive tackle Malcolm Pridgeon went down with a season-ending injury in fall camp, the offensive tackles were never going to be anyone other than Jamarco Jones and Isaiah Prince. Neither had shown signs of trouble prior to Penn State, and freshman left guard Michael Jordan fits that description as well.
Prince’s performance against the Nittany Lions was particularly troubling, but his struggles fall just as much on the coaching staff as they do on him. He was clearly struggling and yet help never came, neither in the form of a tight end lined up next to him to help out, nor was there a running back to help chip pass rushers.
Meyer said Monday that there’s no realistic option to replace him in the starting lineup — which anyone with access to a depth chart already knew — so the Buckeyes might be better served providing that help as he continues to grow and develop.
What this season will ultimately come down to, however, is whether this group of offensive linemen can improve the way the 2014 bunch did. There won’t be any lineup switches or dramatic scheme changes. What happens going forward will be determined by whether the Buckeyes can prevent other teams from bullying them the way Penn State’s front seven did.
“You have to grow up now,” said Price, who was a first-year starter on that 2014 line. “You have to grow up now, because that’s what our expectations are. It’s not an attack on Isaiah by any means. I’d go to war for him right now. I have no problem with him. I’m not going to sit here and allow somebody to nitpick him. He and I, we’re going to get better. There’s not a doubt about it.”