The first day anyone was allowed to be interviewed during this Ohio State football preseason camp was somewhat anticlimactic because the position group supplied to the scribes was the one with the least amount of intrigue.
That would be the offensive line, where coach Ed Warinner welcomes back four starters from what was arguably the best unit in the Big Ten last season. That does not mean he is short of things to take care of and accomplish this August, though.
Officially, the coaches are saying the fifth spot remains up for grabs, but all signs point to sophomore Taylor Decker joining the holdovers as the right tackle.
A four-star recruit who once verbally committed to Notre Dame after being passed over by the previous OSU coaching staff only to receive and subsequently accept an offer to be a Buckeye from head coach Urban Meyer, Decker has all the measurables (6-7, 315 with the athleticism of a former basketball player) to excel as a tackle in the power spread offense, but Warinner wants to see him perform on a day to day basis before granting him official starter status.
Potentially pushing Decker are sophomore Chase Farris and junior Darryl Baldwin (both former defensive linemen) along with redshirt freshman Kyle Dodson.
With senior guards Andrew Norwell and Marcus Hall along with left tackle Jack Mewhort and Corey Linsley all returning as starters, there is not a lot of intrigue regarding the No. 1 unit other than watching Decker’s development.
The four returning starters are not only experienced, they are talented. All were four-star recruits in high school except Norwell, who was a five-star.
Linsley is slowed at the start of camp as he continues to recover from offseason foot surgery, but he is expected to be full-go before season opener.
Working to earn the right to be his backup are sophomore Jacoby Boren and Patrick Elflein, a pair of 2012 signees (Elflein redshirted) from rival high schools in Pickerington, Ohio, (Boren went to Central while Elflein hails from North).
Elflein could also be in the mix at guard along with sophomore Tommy Brown while the others duke it out for reps at tackle.
Farris can play tackle or guard and figures to be the team’s sixth lineman should Decker hang onto the starting right tackle position.
Unlike the starters, the pool of reserves does not contain many great recruiting pedigrees. Dodson and Farris (who was rated as a defensive lineman but projected by some Ohio recruiting analysts as an offensive player) are the only four-stars of the bunch, perhaps a reason Meyer lamented a lack of depth on the line after three days on the practice field.
Evan Lisle could become a wild card but seems like a long shot to make the two-deep. A four-star prospect from Centerville in Southwest Ohio, Lisle possesses notable physical skills but Warinner said he would have to wait and see how quickly the youngster can pick up the OSU spread offense after playing in Centerville’s triple option attack. Whether he plays or not, Lisle’s development this year could be important for next season following the graduation of the four stalwart seniors.