Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Knockdowns and knockouts
By Austin Ward BuckeyeNation
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- There is no entry on the stats sheet, and if there's a scoreboard somewhere tracking the plays for the season, Jack Mewhort doesn't know where it is.
But the Ohio State left tackle is well aware that knockdown blocks have been on the rise for the offensive line collectively.
Left tackle Jack Mewhort is part of a unit Urban Meyer says is much improved.
And even if the junior doesn't know where he might rank in that somewhat unofficial category, Mewhort does know where the 12 times his man ended up on the ground last week rates for him individually.
"That's the most I've had all year," Mewhort said. "I was pretty excited about that. You know, obviously I had a lot of help from the guys I play next to -- so I wouldn't take all the credit for that.
"The guys I play with help me out a lot with that one, but that's a high number for me."
Those hole-opening blocks from Mewhort and plenty more from his sidekicks up front lately have produced some enormous numbers that do show up on the box score, and it's no coincidence that the surge in rushing yardage has been mirrored by the tally the coaches track for the linemen.
A group that was once a significant concern for coach Urban Meyer has developed into a unit that has become one of the best in the Big Ten, quickly adapting to the spread offense and clearing the way for a ground attack that has rolled to 724 yards over the last two games and currently ranks second in the conference in rushing.
Braxton Miller's athleticism at quarterback, tough running from tailback Carlos Hyde and the threat of the option on the perimeter have obviously all played a part in that success as well, but the Buckeyes wouldn't be going far without any blocking in front of them -- and they certainly wouldn't have as much room to operate if defenders were able to stay on their feet on every snap.
"It starts with them," Meyer said. "The area that is most improved is our offensive line play. By the end of spring [practice], they were much improved, but at the beginning of spring it was not good at all.
"If you want to get an offense going, you get your offensive line playing well and right now they are. They're not playing perfect, but they're doing much better than they have since our staff has been here. That's the most important part. We're getting to the second level of the defense, which is the goal of the offensive line."
The Buckeyes want to leave a path of destruction behind them when they get there as well, and in the process that's also been providing plenty of earth for the rushers to scorch.
It's also left a clear path to the end zone for an offense that has made nine trips there on the ground over the last two games and has scored 115 points overall to help keep Ohio State's record perfect heading into Saturday's home game with Purdue. And those official numbers might really be all the validation Mewhort and the line need.
"The more physical we play, the more knockdowns we'll have," he said. "We have really physical guys up front that like to move guys against their will. As we rush the ball more and play more physical each week, there are going to be more knockdowns.
"You know, there's nothing posted around the facility, but I'm sure there's a list somewhere. I'm nowhere near the top of that because the guys I play with are always playing physical as well -- but I'm sure somewhere they're keeping a tally of it."
Until the Buckeyes start posting in the practice facility, though, Mewhort will just stick to the scoreboard in the stadium.