Bit by bit and day by day, new Ohio State offensive line coach Ed Warinner likes what he sees from his unit.
“I think we had a very physical practice (Friday morning) and the offensive line is really coming along in that area,” Warinner said at noontime on Friday. “We are gaining confidence. I like the improvement they’ve made. In the spring in practice three, we had a goal line/short yardage drill like we had today. What a difference there is in the mentality of hitting it in there and being physical, playing hard and attacking. I like where we’re heading in that direction.”
Warinner was asked if it was a “night and day difference.”
“Yeah, in my mind,” he said. “At my position, there was much better physicality and more emotion playing into it. Guys were competing and playing to win. They weren’t looking around to see who else was going to make the block. Plus, the guys were having fun doing it.”
In his 27-year career, Warinner -- a Strasburg, Ohio, native -- has past experience at Notre Dame, Kansas, Illinois, Air Force, Army , Michigan State and Akron. He has been through transitions several times before and understands there is a learning curve for the players.
“I’ve come into new staffs three or four times in the last 10 years,” he said. “I’m used to the crossover when you go to a spread and the change in a position coach and the change in the terminology. I’m not saying our way of doing this is better. It’s just different and the players have to adjust. It takes some time. I saw at the core we have some really good kids who want to be good football players and they want to do whatever we ask.
“I knew if we kept hanging in there and teaching the fundamentals and the mentality we want – and that’s drilled throughout the program in the strength program and how we practice – then it would come. And it is coming.”
Warinner has some ideas on what the starting line will look like. But he is using the first two weeks of camp to bring along as many of his linemen as possible.
“We have some positions where guys are clearly ahead,” he said. “We have some positions where there is some competition going on. Whoever is competing for the right tackle spot, they will get half the reps with the ones and half the reps with the twos.
Reid Fragel has moved from tight end to right tackle
“If there is a battle going on, they will have even reps. That will take care of itself. We will decide after some of these scrimmages. I think we have good chemistry no matter what.”
Since arriving in January, Warinner said the offensive linemen have been drilled on how to reshape their bodies.
“We pushed them hard with cardiovascular conditioning and eating habits and their strength training,” he said. “There are three parts to it. We have dropped some body fat, we’ve gained muscle and we have improved their cardiovascular conditioning. We have a team that can go no-huddle. We can go hard for 2-1/2 hours of practice and maintain a good tempo. Our guys are lean. They don’t have any bellies hanging over their belts, and we don’t want that.”
It helps, Warinner said, to have a staff nutritionist who offers suggestions on what the players should be eating.
“She is an expert,” he said. “As a coach, we are on them about so many things. It’s good to have an expert come in and it’s a great way to help you get what you want. Our nutritionist also watches them at training table to see that what they’re putting on their plate is what they need.”
The biggest competition right now is at right tackle. Senior Reid Fragel, a converted tight end, came out of the spring with the starting nod. But early enrolling freshman Taylor Decker – a recruit Warinner brought with him from Notre Dame – has made a push and split time with Fragel during the first week.
“We have two guys there who have a lot of ability,” Warinner said. “They are two big, athletic guys who have the body type that we like. One was a tight end and one was a senior in high school last year. They both have growing pains and things that they are working on that are relative to their newness at the position or their newness to college football.
“They’re even in terms of who should be the first team. They’re not even in terms of what their strengths and weaknesses are. Taylor needs to work on certain things and so does Reid. We are just going to focus on those things and see who comes quickest in working on their needs.
Jack Mewhort is back as a team leader, OL coach Ed Warinner says
“Yesterday and today, they went 50/50 with first-team reps.”
Warinner said the remaining four spots are in good hands with a handful of juniors. That would be Jack Mewhort at left tackle, Andrew Norwell at left guard, Corey Linsley at center and Marcus Hall at right guard.
Their backups are Darryl Baldwin and Kyle Dodson (left tackle), walk-on Eric Kramer and Tommy Brown (left guard), Antonio Underwood and Jacoby Boren (center) and Chase Farris (a converted defensive lineman at right guard).
“The other four (starters) right now are ahead of their backup,” Warinner said. “We moved Chase Farris over to the offensive line. He is working in there with the second unit. Tony Underwood is working in there at center with the second unit. Whoever doesn’t win the right tackle job and Tony Underwood are probably our next two best linemen in terms of being ready to go.”
Mewhort, back for his second season as a starter, makes the move from guard to the all-important left tackle spot. But he was off scholarship over the summer after he was cited for obstructing official business following an incident in the spring. Warinner said Mewhort has come back with a vengeance.
“Jack is having a really good camp,” Warinner said. “He’s put that behind him and he’s working hard. He is a leader, a competitor and a very coachable guy. He is a guy you love to have in your locker room. You want him in front of your team. He has put that behind him and the team has put it behind them. He’s back in a position where he is trying to lead the offensive line by example and by performance. He’s doing a nice job of that.”
Linsley also seems entrenched at center, while Hall gets Warinner’s early vote for the most improved lineman.
“Corey has carried over (his momentum from the spring),” he said. “But I want to make it really clear right now. The most improved guy in camp so far is Marcus Hall, followed really closely by Andrew Norwell. I thought Jack and Corey in the spring were our two best linemen. I think Norwell and Marcus Hall have closed the gap to where all four of them are pretty good right now.
“Are they where they need to be? No, but we have a lot of practices to get them there. There’s not a big disparity between all of the ones.”
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