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Last updated: 04/16/2011 1:07 AM

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Football
Last Line of Offense
By Brandon Castel

 COLUMBUS, Ohio — And then there were 10.

Okay, technically 11, but the Buckeyes began spring practice with only 10 offensive linemen on the roster after losing eight during the off-season, including starters Justin Boren and Bryant Browning.

The transfer of reshirt freshman Sam Longo , an Ohio State legacy out of Bellbrook, left the Buckeyes woefully thin on the offensive side of the line heading into spring practice

"We've got some new ones coming in for August, but only 10 this spring gives us some challenges," OSU Head Coach Tressel said earlier this spring.

The lack of numbers on the offensive line might actually force the Buckeyes to change their format for the Scarlet and Gray spring game, but while the quantity is low, the quality of this year's line could be one of the best of the Tressel era.

We take a closer look at the (now) 11 guys who make up the last line of offense for Ohio State this spring.

Mike Brewster
Photo by Jim Davidson
Mike Brewster

50 Michael Brewster (6-5, 293, Sr.) — Ohio State’s All-American center needs no introduction. After being forced into the starting lineup as a freshman, Brewster has gotten better every year. It’s debatable whether he was first-team All-American good last season, but Brewster didn’t let it go to his head. He has added muscle and worked on his technique this off-season to better equip himself to handle colossal nose tackles in the Big Ten.

 76 J.B. Shugarts (6-7, 297, Sr.) — After two years as a starter, it’s safe to say that Shugarts is who he is. That isn’t to say he can’t get better as a senior, but Shugarts is an excellent run blocker with a propensity for false starts and an issue with bad feet. He is wearing new orthotics to help combat the foot problem this spring, but the odds favor him missing some time this fall because of his feet.

Mike Adams
Photo by Jim Davidson
Mike Adams

 75 Mike Adams (6-8, 300, Sr.) — No one on the offensive line made a bigger leap last year than Adams, who went from battling for  the starting left tackle spot in fall camp to first-team all-Big Ten in a matter of months. The former blue chip prospect was primed for a huge senior season before the NCAA came down with a five-game suspension. He has come a long way from the guy who used to get abused by Thad Gibson and Cam Heyward every day in practice, and still has a chance to be very, very good this season when he returns in week six.  

Jack Mewhort
Photo by Jim Davidson
Jack Mewhort

 74 Jack Mewhort (6-6, 288, rSo.) — A native of Toledo, Mewhort has grown up A LOT in two years. He looked ready to play as a true freshman in 2009, but now he is ready to play as a redshirt sophomore. Because of his height, he looks like a tackle, which is where he originally projected, but Mewhort is easily the most versatile lineman on the roster. He can play any position across the front line, but seems to have found a home at left guard. He has also been playing left tackle and center this spring, but if the Buckeyes had a game tomorrow, Mewhort would be the replacement for Justin Boren at left guard.

  71 Corey Linsley (6-2, 298, rSo.) — A much more compact player than Mewhort, Linsley just might be the strongest guy in the entire group, at least in the weight room. We have yet to really see what he can do on the football field, but that is likely to change this fall. A product of Youngstown Boardman, Linsley can play both center and guard, but seems to be anchoring himself down as the right guard this spring. Initially it looked like Bollman was grooming him to be the replacement for Brewster at center, but the addition of true center Brian Bobek, who will join the Buckeyes in the summer, means that Linsley can make a home for himself at guard.

Marcus Hall
Photo by Dan Harker
Marcus Hall

 79 Marcus Hall (6-5, 321, rSo.) — Maybe the most intriguing player in the group, Hall had future star written all over him before last year’s redshirt. He saw some good playing time as a true freshman in 2009 when J.B. Shugarts first started to deal with foot problems, but he will probably find a spot somewhere else on the offensive line this fall. Hall is capable of playing both guard spots, but might inherit the most important position on the offensive line this fall. Not many would have projected Hall as a future left tackle out of Glenville High School, but he has turned out to be a better football player than most probably expected.

Andrew Norwell
Photo by Jim Davidson
Andrew Norwell

 78 Andrew Norwell (6-5, 308, So.) — The other real candidate to hold down the left tackle spot while Adams is suspended is Norwell, a true sophomore out of Cincinnati Anderson. Despite suffering a bad leg injury during his senior year, Norwell came right in and became Ohio State’s utility lineman last year, taking over the role Hall had played the previous season. He is a big, mean guy who will be a multi-year starter for the Buckeyes even if he isn’t in the starting lineup this fall. He can play both tackle spots, but they are also giving him a look at left guard this spring. It will be interesting to see where he finally ends up, but it only seems practical that he will be a tackle in the long run.

 55 Tommy Brown (6-5, 320, Fr.) — The only lineman from Ohio State’s 2010 class to enroll early, Brown is getting his first look at right tackle this spring. Part of that is because both Hall and Norwell are getting looks at the left tackle spot, but Brown definitely looks like a tackle at first glance. He is big and strong with a body similar to Marcus Hall. We haven’t seen him face off against a speed rush this spring, but he is a guy who could move around to multiple positions. He probably projects as a guard down the line, and if Shugarts were to get injured, the Buckeyes would almost certainly turn to either Norwell or Hall, whichever one wasn’t playing left tackle. He will benefit tremendously, however, from being at OSU in time for spring practice. That should give him a big head-start over classmates Antonio Underwood and Chris Carter.

  64 Ivan Blackman (6-3, 330, rSo.) — Like Linsley, Blackman is a compact body on the offensive line. He is strong, but lacks the technique to be a real contributor at the moment. He is a preferred walk who transferred to Ohio State from Robert Morris. As Bollman pointed out on Signing Day, walk-ons have played an important role for the Buckeyes on the offensive line in past years, but Blackman has a lot of learning to do. He is getting most of his reps at right guard behind Linsley right now, and he definitely projects as a guard in the long term. The good news is, that despite the fact he’s a transfer, Blackman will have three years at Ohio State to develop his strength and understanding of the game.

 66 Ben St. John (6-2, 295, rFr.) — The addition of Ben St. John as a walk-on last fall was a preemptive strike by Bollman to offset Ohio State’s lack of numbers on the offensive line. St. John was a standout in both football and wrestling at Woodmore High School in Elmore, Ohio, a little town between Toledo and Sandusky. He had received a few offers from small schools in Ohio, but had already applied to be a student at Ohio State when he got the call from Bollman, who outlined an opportunity for St. John to work his way into the two-deep early in his career. That turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, as St. John has worked at both guard spots with the second and third team offenses this spring. He is young, but should end up being passed on the depth chart as other scholarship players arrive in Columbus.

 69 Eric Kramer (6-4, 270, Fr.) — With the low numbers up front, the Buckeyes needed more help on the offensive line this spring, so they turned to preferred walk-on Eric Kramer. An offensive tackle out of Cincinnati St. Xavier, Kramer also had interest in Louisville, Cincinnati and Akron before deciding to walk on at Ohio State. He didn’t have any offers from Division I schools, but Kramer was a two-year starter for the Bombers.  If nothing else, he provides a much-needed body in the trenches.

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