Ohio State’s offensive line has been nearly flawless this season despite having new players at three of five spots.
Dwayne Haskins Jr. has been sacked only once and the line has consistently gotten push to open holes for the run game. But Saturday’s game against TCU will be a tougher challenge than Oregon State or Rutgers could muster.
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The Horned Frogs traditionally have one of the best defenses in a Big 12 conference that is known for shootouts. Coach Gary Patterson directs the defense himself, and he is a master at confusing offenses.
Ohio State acting head coach Ryan Day said it’s essential that the communication on the offensive line is sound. Center Michael Jordan will be playing only his third game at that spot after two years as the left guard.
“Moving from guard to center is a big change for Mike,” Day said on coach Urban Meyer's radio show on Thursday. “You have to snap the ball and make the calls and tell the guys on both sides of you what to do. He’s getting better at it all the time.”
The right side of the line is experienced with guard Demetrius Knox and tackle Isaiah Prince. But left tackle Thayer Munford and left guard Malcolm Pridgeon are new starters.
Ohio State’s linemen have shown they have the size and athleticism to excel. Saturday’s game will show how well they can make adjustments.
Defensive coordinator Greg Schiano said he was happy with the performance of Isaiah Pryor last week as the safety opposite Jordan Fuller against Rutgers.
“I thought Isaiah took a big step from week 1 to week 2,” Schiano said. “It might not have been spectacular plays, but it was consistency. That as a coach is what you’re looking for.”
Schiano said the competition at that spot could continue for a while. Jahsen Wint started the opener alongside Pryor when Fuller was held out to rest a hamstring injury. Amir Riep, Brendon White and Shaun Wade also are in the mix.
Wade is a natural cornerback, but the former five-star recruit has impressed coaches after missing last season with an abdominal tear. Wade had an interception last week against Rutgers.
“He’s a gifted athlete,” Schiano said. “He can play in a lot of different places. With the ability to do that, it’s easier to get him on the field. You don’t have to displace this guy or that guy. He can dabble in all of them. He’s a bright young man, so he can learn the positions.”
In years past, Ohio State counted on a kickoff strategy of kicking to the corner and using its speedy coverage to pin opponents deep in their territory. The new rule allowing teams to take possession at their 25-yard line if they call for fair catches on kickoffs has changed that.
Buckeyes opponents have returned only four of 12 kickoffs that Blake Haubeil has not kicked into the end zone. Haubeil has nine touchbacks.
Schiano said he expects that trend to continue.
“It’s almost common sense to fair-catch it unless you get a poor kick,” Schiano said.