Mewhort, Linsley Lead Offensive Line in 180-Degree Turnaround
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — It is hard to imagine where Corey Linsley might be right now if Urban Meyer had not become the head football coach at Ohio State.
Photo by Dan Harker
Chances are, he wouldn’t be playing center, at least not for the Buckeyes. Linsley probably should have been in the starting lineup a year ago, especially with senior Mike Adams suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season.
He was in the same class as Marcus Hall and Jack Mewhort, Ohio State’s two starting guards at the beginning of last season, but Linsley wasn’t available for the first two games of the season, as he served his own suspension for violating team rules.
Linsley was out of shape and his life was coming off the tracks, even though no one was taking notice with all of the turmoil going around him. He was just getting by—both as a player and as a student—when the Buckeyes hired a new head coach in November.
Just getting by wasn’t going to work for Urban Meyer.
“Corey's a fine player, and he'd be the first to tell you he wasn't a fine player a year ago,” Meyer said.
“His complete commitment to Ohio State wasn't there.”
It wasn’t just Linsley. The offensive line as a whole was lethargic, complacent and generally the opposite of everything Meyer was looking for up front in his transition to a much faster pace on offense.
“He told us we didn't look like an offensive line he'd want to play with,” said Linsley, a fourth-year junior out of Youngstown Boardman High School.
Meyer was appalled by some of the “sloppy” bodies he saw on the Ohio State offensive line when he took the job back in November. That included Linsley, along with guys like Hall, Chris Carter, Tommy Brown and Antonio Underwood.
Offensive tackles Mewhort and Reid Fragel actually had to put on weight during the off-season, but it wasn’t the physical appearance of his line that bothered Meyer as much as the mental state of his guys in the trenches.
Photo by Jim Davidson
"I had three or four miss my first team meeting,” Meyer said while shaking his head.
“Unfortunately, we had a couple miss my second team meeting.”
Meyer had seen enough. He and Mickey Marotti knew that drastic measures where needed if they were ever going to get the attention of this group of guys, who were clearly not dedicated to the Ohio State football program, let alone a new coaching staff on offense.
The next week, Marotti implemented 5 a.m. workouts for the entire team based on the actions of a few individuals. It was miserable, just as Meyer had promised it would be, and everyone on the team knew why they were forced to come in an hour early for an entire week of workouts.
For moment, Linsley actually thought about giving up.
“At first, those were the hardest things I've ever done,” Linsley said of Marotti's exhausting winter workouts.
“I was like, 'Am I really going to quit through this?' And the answer was absolutely not. I'd be constantly telling myself I wasn't going to quit. It was layer upon layer of building confidence.”
During one of his first interviews as the Ohio State head coach, Meyer laid out a plan that would force players to either grab onto the program and hold on for dear life, or let go forever.
Linsley could have gone either way. Little by little, day-by-day, he started to buy in. He started to believe in himself, in Meyer and in the program he was going to be a part of for the final two years of his collegiate eligibility.
Eventually, he started coming in early to work on his technique with new offensive line coach Ed Warinner. He also started working on his snaps with sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller, and the Buckeyes began to see the makings of a guy who could replace Michael Brewster as the team’s starting center in 2012.
“I really think I made a 180 in my life, on and off the field,” Linsley said after Ohio State’s Spring Game at Ohio Stadium Saturday. “I feel like I'm rejuvenated.”
“I just kind of had an awakening. It was at a crossroads in my life. I had to make a decision to make myself a better player and better person or continue down the path I was going down.”
Linsley isn’t a finished product yet, and neither is the offensive line, but the group has made incredible strides since January. As a unit, they shed more than 450 pounds of fat during Marotti’s off-season workouts, while putting on 500 pounds of muscle.
“Their bodies are changing a little bit,” Meyer said, “ and their attitudes are changing.”
During Ohio State’s recent football clinic with the Ohio high school coaches, Meyer called the offensive line “the most improved group” on his football team this spring. It starts with Mewhort—who Meyer calls the “leader of the group”—at left tackle, but everyone needed a fresh start on the offensive line.
“That grind of workouts just really wiped the slate clean,” said Linsley, who spent the entire spring working as the first-team center.
“I feel like right now I'm a 10 times better player than I was last year. I really feel like we have a chance to be the best offensive line in America.”
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