By Jim Naveau
COLUMBUS — Ohio State football fans have reassured themselves that even with the loss of 16 starters from last season’s team things will be OK because there are a lot of young players with potential on the roster.
But OSU coach Urban Meyer doesn’t find a lot of comfort in that word. He is more interested in seeing production than potential.
“After they’ve been here six months if you’re tagged with the term ‘a lot of potential’ that’s not a good thing, that’s a bad thing. It means you’re not very good,” Meyer said on Tuesday after the Buckeyes’ sixth day of spring practice.
“We have some guys with potential. That’s not a problem here. We have guys with gifts but it (having potential) means they’re not using them. It means we’re not coaching them properly or they’re not executing properly.
“It’s kind of a neat word for six months. But after six months if you say a guy has potential it’s another way of saying he’s not very good or he doesn’t care. That’s not a good word to have,” he said.
Finding replacements at three offensive line positions is at the top of Meyer’s list of priorities during spring practice, which continues until the annual spring game on April 16 at Ohio Stadium.
“The defensive line has been the biggest concern in the program but that has shifted over to the offensive line now.”We’re still trying to find that starting five,” Meyer said.
OSU has two returning starters on the offensive line — Pat Elflein, who will move to center from guard, and guard Billy Price. Jamarco Jones and Isaiah Prince would be the starting tackles if the season started tomorrow, but junior college transfer Malcolm Pridgeon could also challenge for a starting spot when he arrives this summer.
Freshman Michael Jordan, part of the 2016 recruiting class, lined up with the first team at the other guard position in Tuesday’s practice and has been impressive, Meyer said.
“He comes in for extra work, enjoys the game, enjoys the practice. He’s done all that. I’m really impressed with him,” he said.
Matt Burrell, Evan Lisle and Demetrius Knox also could challenge for the left guard starting job.
Some other thoughts from Meyer:
— The competition between senior Bri’onte Dunn and redshirt freshman Mike Weber for the starting running back job is “neck and neck.”
“Brionte Dunn — I am so impressed with him. A couple of years ago there wasn’t a whole lot of conversation about him. Mike Weber is a very talented guy,” Meyer said. He also praised freshman Antonio Williams.
— Several defensive linemen played well in a closed scrimmage last Saturday, including Michael Hill, Sam Hubbard and Jalyn Holmes.
—Wide receiver Austin Mack has made a good impression since enrolling early in January and “continues to earn time.”
—He does not feel better about not having to make a quarterback decision, as he did last year with J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones.
“I wish we had four quarterbacks I had to choose from,” Meyer said.
—Former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz, one of Meyer’s mentors, will be at OSU’s Student Appreciation Day on Saturday.
Also on Thursday, OSU athletic director Gene Smith, announced a $42 million Ohio Stadium renovation project.
Items included in the renovation are: restoring the concrete in C Deck, improved scoreboards, lighting and televisions in B Deck and additional loge boxes and luxury suites. The increase in the luxury suites and boxes will require the removal of 2,600 stadium seats, starting in the 2018 season.
The target date for finishing the renovations is 2019.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.