Scott Stuart - Buckeye Grove
COLUMBUS, Ohio - When Branden Bowen went down in the first half of Saturday's game, the immediate reaction on the Ohio State sideline was for the status of the first-year starter. While the training staff carted off Bowen with an air cast firmly around his left leg, and his thumb raised in the air, the attention turned to another pressing matter — who's coming in to replace Bowen?
Getting hit low as another player was falling, Bowen's lower leg buckled, and he immediately collapsed to the turf while crying out in pain.
On paper, Bowen might be an easy player to substitute for, since he was playing his first year at guard after coming in as a tackle. However, Bowen had been having a standout year up until Saturday, and was ranked as a top-10 guard in all of college football.
Bowen had beaten out Matt Burrell for the starting job this offseason, and was praised heavily by Urban Meyer and offensive coaches. Now, the same player who was beaten out as camp wound down is now being asked to step in at the crucial midway point of the season.
"Right now looks like Matt Burrell. And we'll see if there's any competition at that spot," Meyer said. "That's alarming, but Matt played OK. So we'll see what happens there."
An okay distinction from Meyer is probably sugar coating things a little, since Burrell was beaten off the line badly multiple times by Maryland's defensive linemen. Although he did end up helping the Buckeyes' offense keep clicking throughout the rest of the game, there was an obviously lack of push on the right interior of the offensive line after Bowen went down.
Other than Burrell, Malcolm Pridgeon, Wyatt Davis and Josh Myers are in line to battle for the starting spot. While Pridgeon has some experience, Davis and Myers are not ready to be thrust into meaningful playing time according to Meyer.
On top of the obvious issues at guard, Ohio State lost it's third-string offensive tackle. While there are a slew of other players who can play tackle, none have extended playing time experience under their belts.
Lining up beside a fifth-year player in Billy Price will undoubtably help Burrell as he attempts to keep the high level of play by Bowen. Price said the technique and skill is there, but there is something far more important if Burrell wants to succeed.
"I think the biggest thing is probably confidence right now," Price said. "He is always questioning, 'Hey, did I do this right?' Football is a game of highs and lows, and you just have to go out and play."
Ohio State has a full week before traveling to Nebraska for it's next game, so there will be plenty of time to try and acclimate Burrell to the starting role.
This is the first major injury to an offensive lineman with a loss of extended time has happened under Meyer, and it's happening at a rough time for the Buckeyes. Time to see if Burrell can step up well enough for the offense to keep humming.
Also, Bowen said his surgery was successful.
Awake and well. Surgery was good. Buckeyenation your support is unreal! The Best Damn Fans in The Land ! I appreciate you all! Go Bucks!
— Branden Bowen (@BrandenBowen) October 8, 2017