Ohio has a good chance to continue its run as one of the MAC’s best units, but how long will it take to form a cohesive group?
Over the last 3 full seasons (2017-2019), Ohio has had one of better offenses in the FBS, ranking eighth on average in offensive points scored with approximately 38 per contest.
During that span, the offensive line played a critical role in that success, with nine All-MAC awards earned amongst the group during those three seasons. Two linemen were even good enough to get some run in the NFL. LT/RT Austen Pleasants is in his second year with the Jacksonville Jaguars after spending last season on the practice squad and LT Joe Lowery spent the 2019 training camp with the Chicago Bears.
Heading into 2021, Ohio’s line has the talent and coaching to be one of the MAC’s better units but it may take the summer camp or into the non-conference schedule to find the right guys, at the right spots, and develop some continuity. They’ll also be looking for a replacement captain, as former all-MAC third-team center Bret Kitrell graduated out in the offseason.
The Bobcats look to have at least three of the five offensive line spots locked up between Hagen Meservy, Nick Sink, and Kurt Danneker at current. Meservy and Sink are All-MAC-caliber players in 2021, but where Sink and Meservy line up is not set in stone based on their roles in 2020.
Meservy is about as experienced as they come, with at least 27 starts and 39 game appearances since 2017, with 25 starts at right guard. This guy has had a really good career and needs to find a way on to his first All-MAC team in 2021.
Sink has appeared in 26 games for the Bobcats, starting mostly on the interior with four starts each at center and left guard. With Kitrell gone, Sink has the most career college starts at center.
Need at tackle in 2020 resulted in Sink moving from the interior to left tackle and Meservy from right guard to right tackle for two of three games. In an ideal situation, Sink and Meservy would probably move back to center and right guard in 2021 if they can find suitable starters at tackle.
Should Sink or Meservy bounce outside to fill a need at tackle in 2021, Athens native Brody Rodgers could fill an interior spot. Rodgers emerged last season, starting three games at left and right guard and should be ready to start if needed. Even if Sink or Meservy stay inside, Rodgers could provide quality interior depth.
Redshirt sophomore Kurt Danneker will be a favorite to fill at least one guard spot. Danneker has already appeared in 13 career games and looks poised for a breakout season. Would not be surprised if he earns multiple All-MAC team awards before he is done.
The 2021 Ohio recruiting class may go down as one of the Bobcats’ better classes in recent memory. One player to watch from that class who has a decent chance to play early is interior lineman Davion Weatherspoon. Weatherspoon played center, guard, and defensive tackle in high school and received at least nine offers, including Michigan, Kentucky, Liberty, Army, and Central Michigan.
Based on his Hudl video, Weatherspoon comes in with the type of strength, attitude, motor, and finish that makes him potentially an early option. In terms of football strength, Weatherspoon reminds me of Meservy and C/G Jake Pruehs (2014-2017), both who started as true freshman. Also, like All-MAC performer Pruehs, Weatherspoon, at around six feet tall, has a natural leverage advantage.
Ohio enters 2021 looking to establish starters at left and right tackle and have a number of talented, if largely inexperienced, options.
The first shot at the left tackle spot will probably go to Virginia Tech transfer, senior T.J. Jackson. Jackson played in 24 games at VT, mostly on special teams, and his limited starting experience is on the interior. Yet, at a reported 6’7, 375, he is a big obstacle. As Ohio offensive coordinator and assistant head coach Tim Albin put it to The Post, “That’s going to be a need at tackle. I think that’s where he’ll start. It’ll be tough to get around him….”
A couple of highly-recruited freshmen tackles in 2020 in Joseph Habinowski and Bryce McNair could compete for time at the left tackle spot. Habinowski had 18 offers coming out of high school, including Indiana, Kentucky, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Syracuse, Eastern Michigan, and Toledo. McNair had 11 offers.
Redshirt freshman Jay Amburgey, Bryce Ramer, and Samson Jackson were Ohio’s highest-rated offensive tackle recruits from 2019, 2018, and 2017 respectively and should all have a chance in camp at the right tackle to make an impression.
Samson Jackson is entering his 5th year in the program, and is the most experienced with 10 appearances. Jackson appeared in the season opener against Central Michigan last year. Amburgey and Ramer both got looks last year and should be in the mix. If I had to throw a dart, I think Amburgey will end up as the week one starter.
Senior tight ends and Athens natives Ryan and Adam Luehrman are one of the best duos in the MAC and have the size, experience, and skill to provide some significant assistance in the Bobcats’ blocking schemes. Playing WR in high school, these brothers packed on 40-45 productive pounds since their arrivals on campus and now each weighs over 250 pounds. In addition to adding 500+ pounds to the line in double TE formations, the Luehrmans have the experience to help form a cohesive unit with almost 60 combined career appearances.
Look for at least one All-MAC selection for the Luehrmans in 2021. Next week, we’ll take a look at Ohio’s skill position players in 2021.