Greg Studrawa entered Ohio Stadium for Ohio State’s opener against Florida Atlantic with a mix of excitement and anxiety.
The offensive line coach had been encouraged by the talent and budding chemistry on his unit throughout the offseason and training camp. But Studrawa also knew that left tackle Thayer Munford was the only returning starter from last year’s team, and that Munford had practiced sparingly as he eased back from offseason back surgery.Get the news delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our BuckeyeXtra newsletter
At left guard, Studrawa had Jonah Jackson, a graduate transfer from Rutgers who didn’t arrive until after spring practice. At center was Josh Myers, making his first start. Right guard Wyatt Davis started the final two games last season, but right tackle Branden Bowen hadn’t played since 2017, when he suffered a broken leg in two places and needed three surgeries during his rehab.
Studrawa just didn’t know what to expect.
“I was worried about it,” he said.
His concerns were allayed quickly. On the Buckeyes’ fourth snap, Munford, Jackson, Myers and Davis opened a gaping hole for Justin Fields — Myers went 6 yards downfield to block a safety after a linebacker went for a fake — to spring the quarterback on a 51-yard run. As Fields ran into the end zone, the Buckeyes linemen whooped it up following him down the field.
“Here’s young guys who don't have a lot of game experience (together),” Studrawa said. “We ran a sweep with zone (blocking) and Justin pulls it and goes. They're running behind the play, sprinting. That's exactly what I want. Go hard. Be enthusiastic. Love what you're doing. Love who you're doing it with.”
The line was also instrumental in Ohio State’s other quick scoring drives in the first quarter. But after that, the offense faltered, as did the line. The Buckeyes didn’t score again until late in the third quarter.
Players attributed it in part to Florida Atlantic making adjustments and giving odd looks and moving before the snap to cause confusion. Fields took some big shots that caused the Buckeyes to wince. By game’s end, the exuberance about the quick start had faded.
Reviewing the game on video caused Ryan Day to reassess his original evaluation.
“After watching the film, I was more pleased with the way the offensive line blocked than I thought coming off the field,” he said. “There were some funky looks (by FAU).”
All five linemen earned “champion” honors. Jackson was credited with nine knockdowns and Myers six.
Day knows the line has to play better against Cincinnati on Saturday, both in the run game and pass protection. In UC’s 24-14 victory over UCLA last week, the Bearcats allowed only 3.5 yards per play, including 1.7 on the ground.
UC is likely to copy FAU’s strategy of shifting defensive linemen to confuse Ohio State’s linemen.
“When you have a big, strong line like that, (defenses) have a tendency to move those guys around every snap,” Day said. “So we’ve got to be able to handle that movement. If we fit those runs a little better, that'll be the next step.”
Given the changes on the line, it would be unrealistic to expect it to be a finished product already. That’s why Studrawa kept the starters on the field longer than usual in a blowout game. He said there were technique errors and missed assignments.
“I think they can be a tremendous offensive line,” Studrawa said. “But we’ve still got a long way to go. We’re nowhere near where we need to be.”