May 25, 2010

Taking a look at the centers

The Ohio State football team was able to rush for roughly 200 yards per game last season, and while that was in large part a reflection of its quarterback and solid stable of running backs, the offensive line took a big step forward as well.

Yesterday we spoke about how the offensive guards helped make the line one of the more consistent positions on the team, but the interior offensive line would be nothing without the center.

Now, aside from some spring questions at the tackle positions, the offensive line seems to be the model of stability for the Buckeye offense. That stability is mainly in place because of the consistency in the interior offensive line, not only at the guard position but also at center.

The Buckeyes return a two-year starter to the position this year poised for a breakout season and has some young depth ready to back him up if something were to happen.

Read on as BuckeyeGrove.com provides a full summer breakdown of the center position.

Key losses: Jim Cordle (utility offensive lineman)
Returners: Michael Brewster, Corey Linsley, and Scott Sika
Fall Newcomers: None

Center
50 Michael Brewster
71
72 [db]Scott Sika


1. How much did Brewster improve in his sophomore year?

It is funny how the story of an offensive lineman can be forgotten just because of the position he plays. Remember, Brewster was thrown into the starting lineup as a freshman and has steadily improved since he arrived in Columbus as one of the featured players in the famous "Block O" recruiting class. Just like quarterback Terrelle Pryor, Brewster was thrown into the game early. Despite making it into the starting lineup as a freshman - which is undoubtedly a tough task at Ohio State in the trenches - there were some obvious issues with reads and what not during his first year with the program.

But last year, however, those aforementioned seemed to change. In his freshman season there were noticeable growing pains when it came to make adjustments along the offensive front, but with the help of veteran Jim Cordle - who had history playing center for the Buckeyes before being moved as a utility man - Brewster progressed as the season went on.

There was never any questioning Brewster's "nasty" mentality, and last season when the mental and the physical came together, the sophomore became one of the most consistent offensive linemen on the team. It's funny how fast the time flies, but big things are expected now of Brewster as he heads into his first season as an upperclassman.

2. What can be expected from Brewster this year?

It hasn't taken long for Brewster to be noticed and has all of a sudden earned the recognition of being one of the best offensive linemen in the Big Ten. Within the last week, Phil Steele had Brewster as a first-team All-Big Ten selection, which shows you just exactly where the bar is set for him as he enters his junior season.

Like mentioned above, Brewster has finally come into his own when it comes to making the proper reads up front, and when combing that with the physicality he plays the game with, it is the recipe for one solid offensive lineman. Defensive players commented this spring about how well Brewster picks up blitzes and has been one of the more consistent players on the Buckeye offense. Brewster now brings back that nice blend of enthusiasm and experience and could enjoy one of the most productive seasons of any lineman in the Big Ten in 2010. That's what the coaching staff expects and that's what you should, too.

3. Any lingering injuries with Brewster?

Brewster earned quite the reputation last year when playing the second half of the season with a severe ankle sprain. As we found out, the sprain was a lot worse than anyone thought it was, but Brewster was quite the warrior in not only playing through the pain, but also playing well enough where there were no obvious lingering effects.

The three-week break for bowl preparation was huge for Brewster to allow that ankle to heal up and he seemed to have a little more spring in his step in the Rose Bowl. When the spring came around, Brewster was fully healthy and ready to go each day. That said, there are no lingering injuries from last season and the center is in perfect health right now heading into the commencement of fall camp.

4. How big was the loss of Cordle?

Like stated in the offensive tackles portion of this series, Not many would argue that Cordle was the best offensive lineman on the team last season, but he will certainly be missed next year. He will be missed not necessarily because of his dominant play on the field, but rather his versatility and ability to step in at an array of different spots and help the team when it was in need. One of those positions Cordle helped out at, of course, was center.

However, Cordle's help at the center position last year may have tapered off. While I did mention above that Cordle did help Brewster with the transition to the position, Brewster did a good enough job last year moving forward and grabbing a hold of the position in terms of understanding and executing. Cordle will certainly be missed, but there are no direct blows at the center position with his departure. It is Brewster's position now.

5. Who is being groomed to step after Brewster's time at Ohio State is over or if something were to happen to him?

As everyone knows, the game of football is brutal. It is particularly brutal in the trenches, and Brewster finds himself right in the middle of that chaos. Like has been said so many times, it is difficult for any offensive lineman to stay fully healthy all year, and it was evident when just about every one of them suffered from some sort of injury a year ago.

With that said, even with Brewster's emergence as one of the best centers in the Big Ten, the Buckeyes need a backup plan if something were to happen to him. Who are those guys? The answer is Linlsey and Mewhort, who both engaged in a position battle this spring as the backup center.

When the spring concluded it ended with Mewhort seemingly being move back to right guard, but there is no question that both of these youngsters will have more competition come fall camp and into the future. While the Buckeyes have walk-on Sika, the center position could be solely in the hands of Linsley and Mewhort if Brewster is for some reason not able to go. At the very least, in two years after Brewster is gone it looks like it will be one of those two taking over.

Ari Wasserman is a staff writer for BuckeyeGrove.com. He can be reached at Ari@BuckeyeGrove.com.




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