Andrew Norwell says when he and the rest of Ohio State’s offensive linemen walk into a room, the conversation stops and everyone takes note of the small group of large men.
People are noticing them even more these days, now that they’re central figures on a team that is unbeaten and ranked No. 8.
Coach Urban Meyer credits the line for the Buckeyes’ big wins the past two weeks against nationally ranked Michigan State and Nebraska. Meyer used to denigrate the position.
Last spring, he said the front wall was “nonfunctional.” Slowly but surely, he has become the unit’s biggest fan.
“Our offensive line is the whole reason why we’re where we are today,” Meyer said this week. “Tell it the way it is. Our offensive line is coming on. We called that group nonfunctional, because they were.”
After the Buckeyes’ 17-16 win at Michigan State two weeks ago — a game in which the line allowed Ohio State to run off the last 4 minutes while playing keep-away with the ball — every member up front was designated by the coaching staff as a player of the game.
In the wake of a 63-38 beatdown of No. 21 Nebraska, Meyer again heaped praise on the big guys after they forged the openings that led to 372 rushing yards. For a coach famous for his spread attack, for fleet receivers and sprinters who line up in the backfield, he also said something curious.
“We’re kind of a ‘pound you’ offense right now,” he said after midnight on a crisp Saturday at Ohio Stadium. “I don’t mind that. I’ve not had a lot of those. But that’s a ‘pound you’ offense.”
So, it’s as if the line — tackles Jack Mewhort and Reid Fragel, guards Marcus Hall and Norwell and center Corey Linsley, a Boardman High graduate — has changed Meyer’s mind as much as he’s changed his mind about it.
There are a lot of theories why the line has gotten so much better. Some say it’s because it goes up against the likes of John Simon and Johnathan Hankins, the Buckeyes’ two man-eating D-linemen, every day in practice.
Others say it’s because the linemen are so close they are almost indistinguishable from each other.
“All of us are friends, all of us came in in the same recruiting class except for Norwell, and he’s one crazy dude and fits right in with us,” Linsley said. “There’s no separation within the line. There’s nobody looking at each other: ‘Oh, man, why isn’t he playing well?’ There’s none of that on the sideline or in the locker room or anywhere. It’s all positive reinforcement, we all know each other. We all feel like we’re brothers.”
Fragel, converted from tight end to starting right tackle this spring, is the tallest at 6-foot-8, although the group averages 6-6. Linsley is the “lightest” at 295 pounds, even though there’s only a 20-pound variance between him and the heaviest, Hall.
BUCKEYES-LONGHORNS TO PLAY
Ohio State and Texas have agreed to a home-and-home football series that will have the two teams playing in Austin, Texas, in 2022 and in Columbus in 2023.
It’s a continued response to major-college programs upgrading their opponents to improve their strength of schedule in the new playoff system still being finalized.
The games will be played Sept. 17, 2022, in Texas Stadium and Sept. 16, 2023, in Ohio Stadium.