Linsley being counted on.

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Last updated: 04/22/2013 9:05 AM

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Football
After Spending Spring in Background, Linsley Being Asked to Step to Forefront
By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Look through our Spring Game Photo Gallery and you might find a photograph of Ohio State center Corey Linsley.

Look closely though, he won’t be easy to find. Nestled behind team-leader Ryan Shazier, the Buckeyes’ leading-tackler from a year ago, Linsley spent Ohio State’s spring game where he spent the majority of his spring – in the background.

Corey Linsley
Photo by Jim Davidson
Corey Linsley

A lingering foot injury cost Ohio State’s senior center the bulk of 15 spring practices, including the annual Scarlet and Gray Spring Game at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. He liked could have played through the pain, which serves as an enduring reminder of the blood, sweat and tears it took for the Buckeyes to reach perfection a year ago.

There wasn’t much need for him to practice this spring, especially with Urban Meyer and Ed Warinner wanting to get a closer look at backups Jacoby Boren and Pat Elflein, but there is no question Ohio State will need a healthy Linsley in the fall.

“We want to be better than we were last year,” Linsley said earlier this spring.

“Obviously, we want to lead the nation in everything and that's our dream. But the big thing that we want is just to do better than last year.”

The Buckeyes won all 12 games last season and Linsley helped Meyer’s offense post a Big Ten-best 37.2 points per game while ranking second in rushing with an average of 242.2 yards per game on the ground.

The team returns four starters on the offensive line from last season, which is dream scenario for Warinner, Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman. It should make life much easier for Braxton Miller, Carlos Hyde and the other backs, but the OSU coaching staff expects more than just on-field production from the team’s second-year starter at center.

“Our center has always been a leader in there,” said Warinner, who joined Meyer’s staff at Ohio State last January after two years as the offensive line coach at Notre Dame under Brian Kelly.

“He’s a leader because he has a great work ethic. He does everything the right way. He’s real smart, I mean football smart. He communicates to the group and he tries to make sure he’s the quarterback of the O-Line and he does a good job with that.”

The progress of a guy like Linsley might be one of the more amazing success stories in Meyer’s career as a head coach – and there have been plenty of them. It’s not just that Linsley has developed into one of the best centers in the Big Ten Conference, it’s also about where he came from.

Linsley was headed down a long road to nowhere when Meyer and his staff took the reins of the program last winter. He was unmotivated, out of shape and almost out of the program by the time Meyer and strength coach Mickey Marotti got their hands on him.

That was only slightly better than the rest of his cohorts on the offensive line.

Urban Meyer
Photo by Jim Davidson
Urban Meyer

“He told us we didn't look like an offensive line he'd want to play with,” Linsley said of Ohio State’s new head coach last spring.

Meyer was less than impressed with their physical stature when he took over the program and a few linemen were even late to his first meeting as the new head coach in Columbus. Five o’clock workouts wasn’t exactly the best way to start things off with a new coaching staff, but the offensive line has come a long way in just one year.

Linsley in particular may have come the farthest.

“He matured a lot. I think he realized that to be a really good football player, and that was important to him, what do I need to do. We helped guide him and he followed the plan,” Warinner said.

“He developed consistency in his work habits, his mentality, how he prepared for the game. His off the field decisions, how he took care of himself, all those types of things all come into play.”

Meyer recently praised Ohio State’s offensive line as being the best in the Big Ten a year ago. He has also mentioned senior left tackle Jack Mewhort as the No. 1 guy this staff is leaning on to replace the leadership of John Simon, Zach Boren and that 2012 senior class.

The injury has kept Linsley in the background for much of the spring, but they are expecting him to step back into the forefront as a leader this fall.

“Linsley is really good,” Herman said of the fifth-year senior out of Youngstown.

“Really, really good. As a center should be.”

Linsley and Mewhort are the leaders on the offensive line and Braxton Miller is being re-programmed as the leader of the only returning undefeated team in college football, but the coaches know they need more guys to follow.

“Right now, as legitimate leaders? No,” Herman continued.

“I think (Jeff) Heuerman can be. We need to keep working on that. I think Philly Brown can be, but he’s not there yet. Those two are probably the next two in line to make that move.”

That means a lot is going to fall on both Mewhort and Linsley this fall, but it’s hard to bet against the kid from Boardman High School.

“I just want to help this team in every way possible that I can,” Linsley said.

“Whether that's by being all-conference or whether that's just being a leader on this team. Whatever it is I need to do, I just want to answer the call every time.”

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