Finding Left Tackle Critical for Buckeyes
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — With the impending suspension of quarterback Terrelle Pryor to start the 2011 season, all the talk this spring has been about the battle to replace Ohio State’s three-year starter.
But what about his bodyguard?
If Pryor is the most important player missing from the Buckeyes’ lineup for the first five games, then Mike Adams might be right behind him.
“The left tackle position, that's really the main one,” starting right tackle J.B. Shugarts said Saturday.
“We've got to find somebody to fill that spot.”
It has been quite some time since the Buckeyes last had a dominant left tackle to anchor their offensive line.
Outland Trophy-winner Orlando Pace set the mold in the mid 1990s, but as it turns out, there aren’t Hall-of-Fame left tackles waiting around every turn.
Former blue chip prospect Alex Boone was serviceable during his four years at Ohio State, but the last 10 years have been a roller coaster ride when it comes to finding a great pass blocker to protect the quarterback’s blindside.
That changed in 2010.
After two years of trying to find his way, the light finally clicked on for Adams last season. Not only did he lock down the starting left tackle spot during fall camp, but the Columbus native would earn first-team all-Big Ten honors as a junior.
He was primed for a big senior season before the suspensions were announced, but now the Buckeyes are left searching for three new starters on the offensive line until Adams returns in week six.
“It's the first time since I've been here that there are going to be two guard spots and a left tackle open at the same time,” senior center Michael Brewster said.
“But it's not like the competition is going to separate the guys on the o-line. Guys are rotating so much. Guys know that they need to be able to play multiple spots.”
So far this spring, Brewster and Shugarts are just about the only two guys on the line who haven’t bounced around to multiple positions. Part of that is the fact they only have 10 offensive linemen in camp this spring, but another part is finding the best fit for some of the young guys competing for starting spots.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“We've been rotating the guards a lot with Marcus Hall and Andrew Norwell and Corey Linsley and Jack Mewhort,” Shugarts said.
“They've been rotating a lot, guard and tackle, left and right, and that's real tough just to get into a good rhythm. Those guys are working extremely hard at that and really stepping up and taking on that role.”
Mewhort and Linsley appear to be the front-runners to replace departed seniors Justin Boren and Bryant Browning at the two guard spots, but Mewhort has also been getting some reps at left tackle this spring.
However, the top two candidates to replace Adams on the left side of the line are Hall and Norwell.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“I think those guys are doing a great job,” Shugarts said of the two sophomores.
“You've got Marcus Hall and Andrew Norwell really fighting for that left tackle spot, but at the same time those guys are fighting for that left guard spot and that right guard spot.”
Hall was a the backup to Shugarts at right tackle as a freshman in 2009 but spent last year taking a redshirt for academic reasons. Without him, the Buckeyes turned to Norwell, a true freshman out of Cincinnati, as the guy behind Shugarts.
Normally that wouldn’t be a big role for a freshman, but Shugarts has battled foot problems for the past two years, which has opened the door for guys like Hall and Norwell to get some early playing time.
Now both players could be thrust into much larger roles.
“There's always going to be a little rust. Especially because Marcus did miss a year, so he wasn't really involved with the game plan. And Norwell was only a freshman, so he was still learning,” Brewster said.
“They've gotten a lot better. It's like getting the rust off. The older you get, the quicker you can get the rust off. To be honest, I've been really impressed by the way those guys have responded to all of the positions they've been playing.”
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