There is rarely a time as an Ohio State football fan that we have expectations any less than championship caliber. Whether Big Ten or National, every year the goal is set for our guys to end up with some pretty fancy rings and very few tallies in the loss column. It seems every 10 years or so, 1995 and 96, 2005 and 06 for example, that those expectations float just a little bit higher than normal. 2013 is one of those years, and it’s come quite a bit earlier than expected. Even before the 2011 season, which began in complete turmoil, most Buckeye fans didn’t expect us to lose more than a couple, at the most three, games the entire year. Obviously our expectations weren’t correct, but 2012 was the polar opposite. Urban Meyer inherited a group of young men motivated to do better, and a unit at the front lines that was willing to establish a running attack that would beat the will out of anyone opposing them.
With the return of three big-name running backs in Carlos Hyde, Jordan Hall and Rod Smith, along with a stable of capable backups, the rushing game will again be the main focal point of the Ohio State offense. Many believed that with Urban bringing in the spread offense we would see a much more pass-oriented attack, but it was quite the opposite. The offensive line was, and still is, full of man-moving stalwarts that lead the way for these backs. Normally unsung heros, the men up front are fighting every play for that one extra yard, for time against the rush, for that little extra that can turn a small gain into a long run.
Guys like Corey Linsley, Taylor Decker and Jack Mewhort are names we have all gotten used to seeing, and used to seeing them do well. Linsley is on the Rimington watch list, while Decker and Mewhort are notable future pros. The expectations for this group may be higher than any other. We know Braxton Miller has been working on improving his pass efficiency in the off season, but this simply won’t work without good protection. Jordan Hall has been working his way back to 100% after his medical redshirt last season, but won’t gain a yard without holes opened for him. We expect bigger things for an already prolific offense, all of which will start up front.
We have notoriously been plagued by false starts during our best offensive years, most of which will undoubtably come from the offensive line. Can you really blame these guys on wanting to get off the ball as fast as possible? Every play they have someone on the opposing team eyeing up Braxton, wanting to be the guy who gets a clean shot on the Big Ten’s best player. They’re facing guys who want to make a name for themselves by holding the three-headed monster rushing attack to under 100 yards. That is some serious pressure to be under. That’s not even bringing up the standard Linsley set for himself last year, with so few botched snaps. Braxton is in the shotgun often, and not sure if you have tried it, but blindly trowing a ball between your legs 5 yards accurately isn’t the easiest job, especially with a 300+ pound defensive lineman breathing in your face.
Here we have these expectations of glory on offense, but the little things are what is going to get us there. Those little things are done by the biggest men on the field. That extra .5 seconds to allow a pass to get off is crucial, while that last push before the whistle may just make the difference between a first down and a 4th down punt. We are lucky, as fans, to have such an experienced unit leading the way for what is arguably one of the most talented set of skill guys Ohio State has ever had in the backfield. It will be interesting to see just how little we talk about the offensive line this year, because you know they’re doing their best work when all you hear about them is, “you could have driven a truck through that hole on that play.”