A pair of 6-8 325 ogres dominate the skyline of the Ohio State offense. True sophomore left tackle Alex Boone and redshirt sophomore left guard Steve Rehring have kept quarterback Troy Smith safely in the pocket, while opening lanes for the Buckeyes running game.
When Ohio State runs left, the young ogres have often carved out a path for running backs Antonio Pittman and Chris Wells. The Buckeyes averaged over seven yards per carry when running to the left side against Iowa, Indiana, and Minnesota. There were at least 45 carries to the left in those games. Fourteen of those carries went for 10+ yards.
Boone (6-8, 325) came to Ohio State with a reputation as a punishing run blocker. The former U.S. Army All-American Bowl alum has proven to be a very good in pass protection as well. His long arms and footwork are perfectly suited for the left tackle position. Boone missed a couple of games late in the season with a knee injury. The coaching staff kept him out of action, although it was rumored that has they needed him, he could have played. They wanted him healthy for the Michigan showdown.
Rehring (6-8, 329) has been a blessing for offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Jim Bollman. His athleticism and ability to play guard or tackle coupled with his improved play provides Ohio State with valuable options. Thus far, Rehring has proven to be the more physical player at this level. He seemingly enjoys pulling to clear cut a path.
Neither of these players has yet reached their potential. After a full season together, it’s obvious they have gelled playing alongside one another. However, the general consensus is that they’re best is yet to come.
The interior of the Buckeyes offensive line has been tremendous. All Big-10 first team selections Doug Datish (6-5, 295) and right guard T.J. Downing (6-4, 305) team with Rehring to provide the Buckeyes with a strong inside running game. Unofficially, Ohio State averaged 5.2 yards per carry in those three games (Iowa, Indiana, and Minnesota). Seven of the fifty runs went for more than ten yards.
Datish played guard and tackle before taking over the center position this fall and earned All-American honors. The fifth year senior figures to be selected in the first three rounds of the National Football League draft. Bollman has said that Datish’s attitude and effort have played a big role in the Buckeyes success.
Downing is a two-year starter who is a strong run blocker. He is the most intense of the Ohio State linemen. He too is capable of manning the tackle position if necessary. The fifth year senior seemingly emerged last season as a leader among the line. The Canton, Ohio native also figures to be selected in the first three or four rounds of the draft.
Right tackle Kirk Barton (6-6, 310) was named to the All Big-10 second team. The fourth year junior started the remaining seven games of his freshman season and hasn’t looked back. He is equally equipped to run and pass block.
There is also a little depth. Several reserves have secured some valuable playing time. The Buckeyes have run for 180.1 yards per game and allowed only 14 sacks this season in 326 pass attempts.
Despite the Buckeyes’ impressive offensive numbers, don’t expect the Gators to roll over. Florida faced one of the best offensive lines in the nation in early December and held the ground hogs of Arkansas to just 132 yards- 96 yards below their SEC leading average. Heisman Trophy runner-up Darren McFadden ran for just 73 yards, some 47 yards below his average. The Razorbacks still finished with the fourth best running attack in the country.
Furthermore, the Gators sacked Georgia quarterbacks four times in The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. The Bulldogs allowed only 15 sacks this season.
In fact, the Gators have played six opponents who rank among the nation’s top 37 teams in total offense. Rarely does a team get to a bowl game without having some element of offense and Florida has faced 10 bowl teams in 2006.
While none of these schools had a Heisman Trophy winning dual threat quarterback pulling the trigger- Florida has risen to the occasion every time they have been challenged. January 8th should be no different.