COMMENTARY: Spring optimal time to shuffle OL

MICHAEL PHILIPP

SO YOU DIDN'T like the 5-7 record of last year and thought the offensive line play was one of the bigger culprits. Guess what, so did Mike Riley. Same with o-line coach Mike Cavanaugh. And so they spent the time since last season ended coming up with ways to fix it. What they settled on this spring was wholesale changes. Because now is the time to do those kinds of things.

And so the only starter out of four returning o-linemen standing pat -- is Burke Ellis. He finished last year at right guard, and he'll begin the spring that same way. Every other starter, returning or penciled in, will be playing at a new spot.

Mike Remmers moves from right tackle to left tackle.
Michael Philipp moves from left tackle to right tackle.
Grant Johnson moves from left guard to center.
Joshua Andrews moves from center to left guard.

The reasoning? Remmers is seen as the best pass blocker, so he'll protect Ryan Katz' blind side. Cav has contemplated moving Philipp inside to guard seemingly forever. But Cav still obviously believes his best position is at tackle. Riley said they wanted to stay away from information-overload with Andrews, so Johnson will take the center spot.

The moves came only after a months-long period of discussion and debate, said Riley.

The left tackle spot isn't completely new to Remmers, he spent a spring there in '09 and a handful of practices during both spring drills and fall camp in 2010, he also played left tackle.

But don't rule out Philipp. There was a reason he started as a true freshman, a reason he came in as a heralded recruit. He's going to be entering just his third year in the OSU program, and his ability to develop and get reps in the spring and fall last year was obliterated due to knee and ankle injuries plus a broken nose. It will not be a surprise if Philipp has an outstanding spring.

Johnson began his career at center. But how both he and Andrews take to their respective spots this spring is anyone's guess. It does make sense to put Andrews at guard rather than center if Andrews hasn't quite yet mastered all the pre-snap reads and other responsibilities of playing center, perhaps the most involved position on a football team save for quarterback.

It's also worth noting this is spring ball. It's not as if it's set in stone. Darryl Jackson has already turned heads since arriving in January and although he's a rookie, he might press for time. And who knows what other players might emerge among the o-linemen this spring.

And at the end of the day, if you're going to experiment and tinker, now is definitely the time to do it.

"It's the way we're going to start out,'' said Riley.

That OSU is making moves on the o-line after a disappointing 2010 season, and aggressive ones at that, can only be for the better.

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