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Why offensive linemen might have toughest task during shutdown

Ohio State-Thayer Munford-Buckeyes-Ohio State football
Ohio State offensive tackle Thayer Munford and the Buckeyes will be trying to stay in shape at home. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Question Of The Day

Why offensive linemen might have toughest task during shutdown

The speculation, debate and conversations about Ohio State never end, and Lettermen Row is always ready to dive into the discussions. All week long, senior writer Austin Ward will field topics about the Buckeyes submitted by readers and break down anything that’s on the minds of the Best Damn Fans in the Land. Have a question that needs to be tackled, like the one today about Ohio State and the challenge for the offensive linemen? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.

The most demanding physical and mental grind on the field is probably on the offensive line when football is in season, and that also might make it the toughest to deal with during a shutdown.

The dirty work in the trenches almost never gets the full credit it deserves. But doing it well takes countless hours of technical drills, an in-depth knowledge of every single play Ohio State might run, a ton of strength from weight-room workouts — and a heck of a lot of food.

Other than studying the playbook and perhaps for certain guys with access to full gyms, the Buckeyes up front are probably the unit that is missing the most while at home during the Covid-19 quarantine. It’s not impossible to get some meaningful reps during this period of social distancing, but it’s a position that requires close, physical contact on every snap. So, what’s the substitute?

“I mean, you don’t always need a guy lining up across from you,” former Ohio State guard Jonah Jackson said. “You can always work on keeping your feet sharp and pass protection, working on your sets, constantly changing up different techniques of run blocking. You can find a sled, maybe get one of your buddies to put on a mask and some gloves to hold a medicine ball.

Jonah Jackson-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Former Ohio State guard Jonah Jackson is preparing for the NFL Draft this week. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

“But there are a lot of techniques you can use, and even simply running off the ball to work on your steps is adequate enough to stay sharp and get ready for the season.”

Those drills can help with the footwork, hand placement and agility needed to be prepared whenever training camp is allowed to start for the Buckeyes. But that’s only part of the battle at a position that is much more complex than it sometimes looks on the surface.

Whether it’s putting on weight or simply managing it, that’s always a challenge for guys tipping the scales at 300 pounds or more — but that’s doubly true when they are college students who currently don’t have access to the training-table buffet or the nutritionists in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. Ohio State is allowed to ship out some meals to its athletes, but that’s another situation where it’s probably not going to be quite as effective as the real thing on campus.

The same is also true for the strength program. Not everybody on the depth chart is going to have a complete gym to do all the workouts Mickey Marotti would lead in the Woody, and while that challenge isn’t unique to linemen, there’s perhaps no position where pure power and physical maturity matters more.

Ohio State is blessed with experienced veterans in Thayer Munford, Josh Myers and Wyatt Davis, which should make it easier for the unit to get through this unprecedented situation. It also helps that tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere has two years of development under his belt and that projected starter at guard Harry Miller appears to have every tool that could be needed to thrive on the line.

So, the Buckeyes figure to emerge on the other side of this with potentially the nation’s best offensive lines. But in the meantime, there is probably no unit facing a tougher test while stuck at home.

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Austin Ward

Austin Ward is Lettermen Row's senior writer covering Ohio State football and basketball. The award-winning journalist has covered the Buckeyes since 2012, spending five of those seasons working for ESPN after previous stints at the Casper Star-Tribune and Knoxville News Sentinel.