It's not a new revelation that the Buckeyes have struggled on the offensive line under Jim Tressel and Jim Bollman. While Tressel's squads consistently provide the defense and skill position players to contend for a national championship every year, the big guys up front have been the source of much frustration in Columbus. At times they appear out of shape, while at other moments they just look terribly coached. That may sound a bit harsh, but with the amount of big name recruits that have amounted to nothing in recent years, you have to start to wonder what is going on behind the scenes.
All that aside though, there does appear to be hope in 2010.
That hope stems from the way the offensive line played to close the season. If you remember, it was a huge turnaround from how things started. Just go back to the first half of the season, starting with the Navy game. The offense sputtered, much of which can be contributed to the offensive line. It was the defense that really was in a groove, while Pryor was throwing for 100 yards a game and Saine and Herron struggled to get going.
The breaking point happened in back-to-back games against Wisconsin and Purdue. Many forget the Wisconsin game because the Buckeyes won, thanks to defensive and special teams play, but it was a dismal offensive performance. In fact, the Badgers outgained OSU 368 to 184 yards that afternoon. The following week the offense followed up this spectacular performance with a defeat in West Lafayette to Purdue. Don't get me wrong, these games were probably two of Pryor's worst, but the offensive line was awful too. They looked outmatched, lazy, and there seemed to be very little hope that Buckeyes would be able to handle the upcoming schedule.
That success late in the year should have fans excited for what this line is capable of come this fall. Obviously, the interior of the line is solid. With LG Justin Boren, C Michael Brewster, RG Bryant Browning, the Buckeyes know what they are going to get. All three were anchors on last year's line, and will be again this season. The question mark will be the tackle spots.
At right tackle, I really like the one-two punch of J.B. Shugarts and Marcus Hall. They both rotated there at the end of last year, and did a quality job. While Shugarts as a junior will probably having the starting role come September, I think Hall is the man to watch out for. Regardless, I think the right tackle spot is going to be just fine. That leaves the left tackle spot. Once again Mike Adams and Andy Miller are fighting for this spot, just as they did last year. If you remember though, the staff finally got fed up and stuck Cordle out there to close the season. This time around, Adams has to be the guy. Miller doesn't have what it takes to play out there every down and the staff can't afford to go shuffling things around midseason again. So, as a junior Adams needs to finally live up to his potential. The sack count was terrible last season, especially considering Pryor's mobility, and that has to be fixed. Some of that goes on Pryor for holding onto the ball and trying to be superman, but left tackle hasn't helped.
So will the offensive line breakout in 2010? I say yes. This is the most talent and depth on the line years, and this unit should have tons momentum on their side after the conclusion of last season. Left tackle is a huge part of the equation though, and that needs to be solidified come fall. If the staff can get Adams to lock down that spot, this may be one of Tressel's best lines ever.