COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State enters the 2017 football season with an offensive line almost completely intact from last season.
Four of five starters return, giving the Buckeyes plenty of experience at a critical spot on the field. The one open position, however, is one of the biggest question marks on the team. Billy Price’s move from right guard to center gives the Buckeyes more options at the open slot — there are more guards than centers in the program — but most are unknown quantities.
So who will ultimately end up lining up at right guard for Ohio State? Take a look at the options for the Buckeyes and then vote in our poll below.
Knox came in for injured guard Michael Jordan in the Fiesta Bowl. However, his performance in that game could charitably be described as underwhelming. Jordan eventually returned and outplayed Knox despite playing on an injured foot.
Still, it appears Knox will get the first crack at the spot. He’s been running with the first team in spring practice.
“I wouldn’t say a favorite, but Demetrius Knox is a guy that’s going to be very involved in that,” coach Urban Meyer said.
It’s entirely possible that Knox just happened to have a bad game at the worst possible time. Furthermore, it’s not unheard of for Ohio State offensive linemen to struggle out of the gates. Taylor Decker had a rough outing against Buffalo in his first career start, and Price mentioned being swamped by Virginia Tech in 2014.
Price, for his part gave Knox a vote of confidence.
“To my right side, Demetrius Knox, the transformation you see … he and I have been very close over the past three years, four years,” Price said. “To see his transformation is just absolutely incredible.”
Burrell came to Ohio State in the class of 2015 with a ton of promise. A highly regarded 4-star out of Virginia, he’s versatile enough to play any of the interior line positions.
However, it sounds like the college experience set him back a bit during his first two seasons.
In interviews during the first week of spring practice, Price suggested that Burrell had perhaps been spending too much time on High Street during his first two seasons.
“I told him, ‘You gotta close your circle and tighten your circle down because people want to hurt you, people want to take you down. People want to see you mess up and put you on the news,’ ” Price said. “Matt’s done an excellent job. He’s cleaned up.”
Burrell is arguably the most gifted of the returning guards, and if he puts it all together he’s a formidable threat in that competition.
Pridgeon, a 5-star junior college transfer who missed last season after a fall camp injury, currently is practicing at right tackle.
That puts him at a disadvantage in this competition, but a couple things could change that. If returning starter Isaiah Prince continues to impress coaches to the point that they know he’s locked down the right tackle job, it might be worth looking at Pridgeon at guard. Additionally, struggles by other players or outstanding play by Pridgeon could convince Ohio State to put its best five on the field even if Pridgeon fits better at tackle than at guard.
Myers has been working out at the backup left guard spot. He’s a tremendously talented player, but his status as a true freshman puts him behind the curve. Perhaps the biggest obstacle is the fact that his high school ran a Wing-T offense, so he needs to grow as a pass blocker before playing at the college level.
Still, Meyer seemed impressed by the early enrollee when asked about him on National Signing Day.
“Josh Myers is absolutely killing it in the weight room right now,” Meyer said. “He’s going to be in the mix.”
Davis, an incoming true freshman, isn’t an early enrollee. That makes his potential ascent to starter almost impossible.
However, he’s arguably the most physically gifted of any guard on the Ohio State roster and he’s probably the most polished of any coming out of high school.
“Wyatt Davis, I went out to watch him practice,” Meyer said on signing day. “Obviously he’s a great story, how we got him. Wonderful high school program, one of the best programs in America. I don’t want to say he’s ready-made because that’s not fair for him, but that’s how much respect we have for the Bosco football program.”
His talent and athleticism certainly work in his favor, but time does not. Aside from the fact that Knox, Burrell and Pridgeon have years of experience on him, they also have spring practice. Davis’ best chance is for the battle to drag into fall camp, where he’ll get a chance to show what he can do.