Can Ohio State’s Offensive Line Improve in 2017?

Inconsistent performances and weak links hurt the Buckeyes offensive line in 2016

Ohio State’s offensive line featured a number of future pros in 2016, including Minnesota Vikings third-round pick Pat Elflein. But the until can really only be as strong as it’s weakest link, which created issues for the Buckeyes.

Using our new heat map feature, we tracked the location of where all of the pressures allowed by the Buckeyes were generated in 2016. But before we get to the map, here’s a quick explanation on how to read it:

  • The pressures were charted based on where the defensive player forced his way through the offensive line. So if a pass-rusher works off the outside shoulder of the left tackle, his pressure appears on the far left side of this heat map.
  • All pressures were charted, even if no one was to blame. If an overload blitz or delayed blitz created a situation where no lineman was at fault, the pressure was still charted at the point where the defender crossed through the offensive line.

This heat map probably doesn’t come as a shock to Ohio State fans who are well aware of the struggles of Isaiah Prince at right tackle. Prince led the team with 39 pressures allowed, including seven sacks.

But the hot zone around the right tackle accounts for far more than just 39 pressures due to the way opposing defenses attacked Ohio State’s offensive line. Especially late in the year, teams started using more overload and delayed blitzes, likely because they had picked up on the fact that the entire right side of Ohio State’s line was struggling to adjust to more complex looks.

It’s easy to place the blame on Prince, who clearly struggled during his sophomore year. But it was also apparent while charting the games that Ohio State did not give Prince the extra help he needed. Ohio State overwhelmingly preferred to use a standard five-man line, without adding a tight end in pass protection, which could have helped ease the pressure on the right side.

It’s also worth asking: how much did the offensive line’s performance impact J.T. Barrett?

Knowing he had to pay constant attention to the right side of his line, did Barrett become distracted? Only Barrett knows for sure, but it certainly didn’t help.

With a full season now under his belt, Prince should be improved as he enters his junior year. But if he struggles, hopefully the Buckeyes’ coaching staff has a better plan to help him protect Barrett.

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