Josh Simmons Donovan Jackson Ohio State Buckeyes Offensive Line

Chip Kelly Liked What He Saw From ‘Clean Slate’ Offensive Line In Spring

The last time the Ohio State offensive line took the field, they gave up 10 tackles for loss and four sacks to the Missouri Tigers in the Cotton Bowl.

It is a game that the Buckeye offensive line would like to forget, but also one that has stuck with just about everyone who witnessed it.

One person who it hasn’t stuck with is Ohio State offensive coordinator Chip Kelly, who was the head coach at UCLA at the time. Yes, he went back and watched the offense from that game and every other, but his judgments were going to based on his own first-hand accounts this spring.

A year ago at this time, the questions about the Ohio State offensive line were abundant. They were replacing both starting tackles and a starting center, and really only had one semi-known commodity in fourth-year junior Josh Fryar.

A year later, however, the questions are much different.

After the spring game, last year’s quest for a starting five was mentioned to Kelly in relation to the current situation’s search for an offensive line that can do everything he wants to do as a coordinator.

“Yeah, I mean, I’ve been here a short amount of time, so I really don’t have anything to compare it to,” Kelly said. “So I’m kind of tabula rasa. Come in with a blank slate and just absorb it.”

Kelly watched returning starters Josh Simmons, Donovan Jackson, Carson Hinzman, Josh Fryar, and Alabama transfer Seth McLaughlin up close all spring long.

So what’s written on his slate right now?

“I think we’re really athletic,” he said. “I think Donnie and Seth and those guys inside are really smart and really intelligent. They allow you to be able to make adjustments in-game.”

With Hinzman and McLaughlin, the Buckeyes now have two experienced centers to build around. Fryar, Simmons, and Jackson are veteran starters who have impressed off the field as well.

“Just talking football with some of those guys, it’s like, ‘Well, these guys are wired the right way,'” Kelly said. “A lot of those guys have played a lot of football, so they can bank on their experience. I think we’ve got about four guys that have played a significant amount of snaps and we’ve got to make sure we can find out who the fifth guy is. But that’s similar to where the quarterback spot is, I think.”

The search goes beyond just a starting five. Kelly is echoing the rest of the Ohio State coaching staff by stressing what an expanded playoff is going to do to the overall wear and tear of the team.

“You’re not going to play a 16 or 17-game season and just play the five guys,” he said. “You really have to develop your depth there. There’s going to be a number two center that’s going to play a lot of football. There’s gonna be a number two guard, whether it’s on either side of the ball. There’s gonna be a third tackle.”

The Buckeyes were actually able to get through the regular season with the same starting offensive line last year. It was their first time doing so since the 2016 season. Based on it happening twice in the past eight years, it would be foolish to expect it to be the case this season.

Which is why Chip Kelly and offensive line coach Justin Frye are preparing for the most likely scenario instead.

“I think you’re gonna get especially tested with this in this new playoff format,” Kelly said. “You really have to think that way. So you’re not looking for five starters, you’re really looking for 10 starters, because you’re gonna have to probably play 10 guys to get where you want to get in a 16 or 17-game season.”

Go to discussion...