Updated Thu, Oct 4, 2012 2:00 pm
It takes a tough, physical mentality to play on the line of scrimmage in college football.
A strong line is the glue to a successful offense. Without stout blocking, the offense’s production would be extremely limited.
Ohio, thanks to the play of its line, has had a strong rushing attack to start the season. The Bobcats are currently ranked 22nd in the nation with 224 rushing yards per game, and junior Beau Blankenship is currently second the nation with 757 rushing yards.
Blankenship often thanks his linemen for his success. A couple weeks ago, the redshirt junior bought them cupcakes and treated them to donuts on Monday.
“I love every single one of them and wouldn't trade them for anybody,” Blankenship said. “They're awesome.”
The offensive line’s success has been attributed to its chemistry. The line features three seniors and two juniors, all of which have been playing together for years.
“We have a great team camaraderie. We've been together, especially the three inside guys, for three or four years now,” center Skyler Allen said. “They are some of my closest friends, and we all work together and really are on a one level kind of thing.”
With the constant beating offensive linemen experience, injuries are a common occurrence, making it an amazing feat when a player is able to step onto the field day in and day out.
Ohio’s Eric Herman has consistently put on a green-and-white jersey through his entire four years on the offensive line.
It has been 1,124 days, 43 games, and 32 victories since Ohio Coach Frank Solich first started Herman as a redshirt freshman in the home opener against Connecticut in 2009. Since that time, the senior has fought through injuries to start every single game.
For any offensive lineman, Herman’s streak is unfathomable.
"43 is amazing. I don't know how his body is still taking it. That's a whole lot of playing time. That's a whole lot of battles. It takes a toll on your body,” lineman John Prior said. “That speaks numbers for Eric and the type of player he is and the attitude he has.”
Injuries are a part of the game. As quarterback Tyler Tettleton returns to full health, he can’t imagine starting for four straight years.
“My body feels like it's going to fall apart the next day, and I can't even imagine those guys. They do all the dirty work,” said Tettleton, who has yet to treat his line to dinner. “To have that many consecutive starts is an amazing feat. I'm just glad we have somebody like that that can be consistent and someone we can rely on.”
Herman’s first play from scrimmage was memorable for the 6-foot-4, 319-pound lineman. The Bobcats opened up on their own five-yard line, and the inexperienced freshman jumped a little early to commit his first penalty as a Bobcat. From play one to his final play, Herman sees a different, more mature player.
“I was kind of a hot head back in the day,” Herman admits. “Now I feel like I'm a little bit more technically sound. It's crazy to think about how many games it has been.”
There are only a few statistics that can determine the success of an offensive line, but Ohio’s line is at the top of those categories. With 126 passing attempts, Tettleton has only been sacked three times this season, which is 12th in the nation.
“(Coach) tells us everyday we can be one of the best lines in the country, and I completely agree,” Allen said. “I think it's one of the things we have to buy into.
“As long as everybody can stay healthy and we have a couple key guys like Mike McQueen, Mike Prichard and all those guys coming back, we'll definitely be one of the top lines in the country.”
In order to be at the top, the Bobcats have to perform at a high level every game. Against the better teams, that level must increase.
In the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, the Bobcats played against a solid Utah State defensive line, and they managed to rush for 125 yards and pass for 220 yards. Herman, individually and as a line, felt that night was the best in his entire career.
“Everything was clicking for me. The offensive line was clicking and we were just getting stuff done,” Herman said. “It's good to play against really good defensive lines and measuring yourself up with them.”
Ohio’s schedule progressively gets more difficult in the MAC. This weekend, the line will be challenged by Buffalo’s defense, particularly the front seven. Tettleton expects to see nothing different from his experienced offensive line.
“We went up against a good front seven at Penn State, and we've seen so many good front sevens in the past, so it's one of those things where they just come to play and keep doing what they've been doing,” Tettleton said. “If we keep doing that week in and week out, we're going to be where we want to be at the end of the year.”
That begins with an elite passing game combined with an elusive running attack, and all glued together by one of the top offensive lines in the nation.