Mark Znidar
Mark Znidar

Mark Znidar comes to Press Pros Magazine after 33 ½ years at The Columbus Dispatch. From 1996 until September 2018, he staffed high school sports, Ohio colleges that included the Mid-American Conference, Ohio State’s upcoming opponents in football and Ohio State baseball. In the previous three seasons he covered the Columbus Clippers triple-A baseball team. His other beats were Ohio State basketball (1985-88), Clippers (1985-86 and 1989-93), Cincinnati Bengals (1993-95) and NASCAR (1994-2008). He subbed on the Columbus Blue Jackets and Ohio State women’s basketball beats. In March 2017, Znidar was inducted into the Ohio Prep Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame.  Znidar was born in Cleveland and raised in Richmond Heights. He graduated from Cleveland St. Joseph High School and the University of Dayton. He also worked for The Atlantic City Press, Lake County News-Herald and Baltimore News-American. He has a daughter, Amanda, and four grandchildren.

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The group failed to convert on third down, was heavily penalized and hot and cold when it came to protecting quarterback CJ Stroud when hit in the mouth by Oregon, Penn State, Nebraska and Michigan.

Columbus, OH – When a football team is outplayed so thoroughly and so badly in front of 111,156 people and a national television audience, that’s called being exposed.

That happened so often for Ohio State against Michigan in a game that meant a spot in the Big Ten championship game that the players might as well have been caught wearing their skivvies in public.

No Buckeyes unit had more shortcomings and faults laid bare that day than the offensive line.

Veteran columnist Mark Znidar writes the Buckeyes for Press Pros Magazine.com.

Four of the Wolverines eight tackles for losses were sacks. They forced punts in going 10-for-18 on third. They gave up only 64 yards on 30 carries, and that’s 2-something yards per carry.

Ohio State had 10 penalties and the offensive line was responsible for half of them.

It wasn’t just one of those days, but right guard Paris Johnson called it just that.

“They had a good front and I believe we have a great unit as well,’’ he said. “They played well that day. We learned a lot after the loss on film.’’

Right tackle Dawand Jones is promising a better effort when sixth-ranked Ohio State (10-2) plays 11th-ranked Utah (10-3) in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day in Pasadena.

“Oh, yeah, for sure,’’ he said. “I saw it on TV and I can’t miss this opportunity. The whole nation of Buckeye fans is counting on us for a dub.’’

But what happened to the line against Michigan in Game 12 pretty much happened in Game 2 against Oregon, Game 8 against Penn State and in Game 9 against Nebraska.

When the offensive line went up against a credible front seven, it broke down and broke down badly.

Here’s the rundown:

Pointing out some problems…the Buckeyes’ offensive line was a major letdown in the loss to Michigan.

Oregon – The Buckeyes did run for 128 yards on 31 carries, but 47 yards came on three plays. They were 6-for-15 on third down and gave up two sacks.

Penn State – The running game did produce 152 yards on 34 carries, but TreVeyon Henderson accounted for 68 yards on one play. They were 5-for-14 on third down and save up three sacks. There were four false start penalties and an illegal snap. The worst part is Noah Ruggles had to kick field goals after drives fizzled at the 18, 6, 8 and 8.

Nebraska – Another poor running game with 90 yards on 30 carries. Another failure on third down at 9-for-19. There were two more sacks. And there was more failure in the red zone with Ruggles kicking field goals after the offense bogged down at the 9, 31, 18 and 31.

What about all those successful days against Tulsa, Akron, Rutgers, Maryland, Indiana and Michigan State?

What about them? The former five weren’t any good and Michigan State proved that it’s at least a year away from being potential trouble against the big boys.

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The Michigan game left no doubt that the o-line isn’t all that good.

“We got exposed in some areas (against Michigan), but also at the same time we know what we need to do,’’ left tackle Thayer Munford said. “We need to run the ball and we need to dominate the line of scrimmage, and that’s going to be our motto.”

There definitely was some sort of bug – no, not THE bug – going through Ohio State’s roster the week of the Michigan game. That cost quarterback CJ Stroud his voice and affected a number of others.

Combine that with the crowd in Michigan Stadium and it was difficult for the line to hear the snap count. Jones was whistled for three false starts, Munford one and the team one. Left tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere had a holding penalty.

“At that point, I just started looking at the ball (to see the ball snapped). You can see me on the film. At that point it was no use trying to hear (Stroud’s) voice.”  –  Dawand Jones

It was a particularly horrendous afternoon for Jones. Wolverines end Aidan Hutchinson had three sacks and one hurry against him.

“I was in horrible plays because of the crowd and didn’t react well,’’ Jones said. “At that point, I just started looking at the ball (to see the ball snapped). You can see me on the film. At that point it was no use trying to hear (Stroud’s) voice.’

Jones said he had difficulty when Hutchinson, a Joey and Nick Bosa facsimile with speed and power, split even wider before the snap.

“I feel like mentally and physically we kind of overlooked them,’’ he said. “I feel like the coaches prepared us well enough where we should have won.’’

The NFL is a possibility for Jones, but he will have to come up with a superb Rose Bowl to show scouts.

At the moment, he hasn’t made up his mind about staying or leaving.

“I feel like that’s a factor in me coming back,’’ Jones said of his game against UM. “Is he disciplined? I am disciplined. I get on myself how I executed. I put the game on me, for sure.’’

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This was supposed to be something of a super line after position coach Greg Studrawa boldly gambled by putting four tackles on the field.

He moved Munford from left tackle to left guard, Petit-Frere from right tackle to left tackle and converted tackle Paris Johnson into a right guard.

All that was to get the five best offensive linemen on the field, particularly Johnson and Jones, a 6-foot-8, 360-pound mountain of a man.

It’s fair to say that the experiment has been a dud. For one, Munford and Johnson are so large for guards that opponents have been able to get underneath their pads.

Munford was considered to be the No. 1 returning left tackle in college football and Petit-Frere was excellent on the right side in 2020.

The line will look different in 2022 with Munford moving on for sure and Petit-Frere probably moving on to the pros.

It’s expected that Johnson will move to his natural position of left tackle, Matthew Jones will play left guard, Donovan Jackson right guard and Dawand Jones right tackle.

The center would be incumbent Luke Wypler or Harry Miller. Miller has not played a down this season because of an undisclosed injury.

What if Dawand Jones leaves?

Jackson, one would think, would have the inside track on right tackle. He was a five-star prospect and the No. 1 ranked guard in his high school class, but can play anywhere.

Johnson is excited about the possibility of playing left tackle. He was the No. 1-ranked player in his class and the No. 7 overall prospect.

“Going back to tackle and having time and space on my side I feel like would be really fun to get back to,” Johnson said. “I’m going against guys that are 300 pounds plus every play. I’m sure going against a guy that’s 280 might be really fun when that time comes.”

The sting of how Ohio State’s chances of making the College Football Playoff ended will live on well into the new year.

“What I feel like we’ll be doing off-season will be on our minds every day,’’ Johnson said.

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