Most Important Buckeyes: No. 10
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — We already have a pair of offensive linemen in our postseason countdown of the Most Important Buckeyes, but no one should be surprised to see Jack Mewhort on the list as we make our way into the top 10.
Photo by Dan Harker
No group on the entire Ohio State roster was more vastly improved under Urban Meyer this season than the five guys up front on offense. That is a great testament to the job done by both Mickey Marotti – who reshaped these guys in the offseason – and Ed Warinner – who brought a toughness to the group that had been missing for quite some time.
A lot of the credit should also go to the players; the guys who bought in to the new system and allowed Warinner and the coaching staff to reshape their bodies and their minds after a lackluster season in 2011.
What Made Him Important?
One of the biggest challenges for Warinner when he was hired by Meyer last January was to figure out which guys needed to be in which spots on the offensive line. Specifically, which guys were going to replace Mike Adams at left tackle and Michael Brewster at center.
Those are probably the two most important position on any offensive line, especially with a right-handed quarterback.
The obvious choice to replace Adams seemed to be Andrew Norwell, who had played left tackle at the beginning of 2011 while Adams was serving his NCAA suspension. But Warinner quickly realized the guy who was best-suited to handle that critical role of protecting Braxton Miller’s blindside on the edge was Mewhort.
He had played just about every other position on the offensive line, including center and right tackle, but the staff came to Mewhort in the offseason and asked him to take on the responsibility of being that guy at the most noticeable position on the line.
The 6-6 junior out of Toledo made a seamless transition to the left tackle spot during spring, and even after he was suspended from the team over the summer for his little incident at The Bogey Inn, Mewhort returned in the fall to become a leader for the Buckeyes, and a group of linemen who definitely needed that out of him.
Mewhort started all 12 games during the regular season and was a fixture on the left side of the offensive line. By the end of the year, he and Norwell were playing about as well as any combination on the left side of the line anywhere in the country. He proved to be the best pass-blocker on the team, and really solidified a spot that was very much a question mark when Meyer took over the team.
What Would the Buckeyes Have Done Without Him?
This is a great question, because left tackle is not a position where you just plug guys in and let them play. It takes a unique skill set to be an effective pass blocker against the speed rush off the edge. It’s possible Reid Fragel could have slid over from the right side, but he was having a hard enough time with the transition from tight end.
Fragel turned out to be one of the team’s best offensive linemen during the 2012 season, but he a much better run-blocker than he is pass protector. He got a lot better at pass blocking during the offseason, but not enough where they would have felt comfortable with him protecting Miller’s blindside.
That leaves Norwell, who easily had his best season at Ohio State as the team’s starting left guard this year, or freshman Taylor Decker. This is probably going to be Ohio State’s left tackle of the future, although we will have to see how Kyle Dodson progresses as he learns how to use his natural God-given abilities.
Decker, a former Notre Dame commit, was competing with Fragel for the starting right tackle spot all the way through camp. He was also the backup to Mewhort at left tackle, even though converted defensive end Darryl Baldwin was playing the part in practice.
It would have been a lot more interesting, and more difficult, for the Buckeyes this season if they were starting a true freshman at left tackle instead of a fourth-year junior like Mewhort, a guy who already had a year’s worth of playing experience under his belt.
How Does it Compare to Preseason Expectations?
We knew going into the season that Mewhort was going to play an important role for the Buckeyes in 2012. Whoever the left tackle was on this team was going to be on our list of the 20 Most Important Buckeyes because that is simply a critical position for any football team at any level.
For that reason, we had Mewhort all the way at No. 6 on our preseason countdown back in August. It just seemed like his play was going to be critical for Ohio State’s success in 2012, and the same could be said about Corey Linsley. We had him at No. 4 on our preseason countdown, right behind Johnathan Hankins and ahead of guys like Carlos Hyde, Ryan Shazier, Bradley Roby and Zach Boren.
We were right about the fact Mewhort and Linsley were both critical to Ohio State’s success in 2012. The offensive line is a big reason why the Buckeyes were undefeated this season, but some of those other guys we mentioned turned out to be pretty darn valuable as well.
Mewhort sliding from No. 6 in the preseason to No. 10 on our postseason countdown is more of a result of what other guys did than anything Mewhort didn’t do as a junior this season. He should be right near the top of the list as a senior heading into the 2013 season as well.
Most Important Countdown:
No. 11 Devin Smith
No. 12 Corey Linsley
No. 13 Nathan Williams
No. 14 Christian Bryant
No. 15 Etienne Sabino
No. 16 Andrew Norwell
No. 17 Travis Howard
No. 18 C.J. Barnett
No. 19 Garrett Goebel
No. 20 Kenny Guiton
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