The Ohio State football season is still young, but the offensive line is already battling significant injuries. With the Big Ten schedule beginning this week, the Buckeyes look to be more consistent up front, regardless of several setbacks.
Coming into 2009, the Buckeyes looked to replace several veterans including left tackle Alex Boone and guards Steve Rehring and Ben Person. While losing experience can be difficult for any unit, the offensive line added an experienced left guard in Justin Boren.
The Michigan transfer sat out last season, but started as a true freshman for the Wolverines and has given the Buckeyes inexperienced line another veteran leader. Boren’s fierce mentality on the field is appreciated by fellow teammates.
“Justin Boren is pretty bad. I like how nasty he is. We just need some offensive linemen to step up and be nasty,” quarterback Terrelle Pryor said. “They have to be ferocious on the field and want to take somebody’s head off. That’s the kind of people I want to be around.”
Unfortunately, as OSU’s offensive line tries to build early season consistency, they will have to do so without senior Jim Cordle. An ankle injury sustained against USC kept Cordle out of action against Toledo, and he is expected to miss at least three more weeks before returning.
Cordle started his career at center before moving out to guard last season due to injury. Sophomore Michael Brewster replaced him at center.
This year, Cordle finds himself even further outside, playing right tackle. Junior Bryant Browning, who started at tackle last season, has moved inside to his more natural position of right guard.
“Mike has been solid this summer and Jimmy’s move outside seems to be a good thing, and Bryant is steady,” Jim Tressel said about the moves across the line. “Bryant is good at tackle and I think even better at guard.”
Tressel said Cordle’s quickness was the main reason for moving him out to tackle. Brewster’s steady play early in his career allowed Tressel to feel comfortable moving Cordle away from center.
“[Brewster] did a good job stepping in as a freshman and he had some tough moments. Every play wasn’t wonderful. Every game wasn’t wonderful,” Tressel said. “And I’m sure we have to remind ourselves that he’s a sophomore. But I think he’s pretty darn solid at understanding what we want to do.”
The Buckeyes biggest challenge now will be moving forward without their most experienced starter. Against Toledo last weekend, it was sophomore J.B. Shugarts who saw major time in Cordle’s absence.
Shugarts hasn’t seen much action yet in his career, but Tressel said he knows he is talented and he’ll become more confident in his young tackle with more playing time.
Another option the Buckeyes used against Toledo was moving Browning back out to tackle and replacing him at guard with senior Andrew Moses. It appears that the offensive line will use both options to try and maximize output while Cordle works his way back.
The Buckeyes may have lost Cordle at right tackle, but they have welcomed back sophomore Mike Adams on the opposite side. Adams was withheld from the first two games this season, but saw significant time against Toledo at left tackle. Adams will have to work to get up to speed with the rest of his teammates.
“I think any time you lose some repetitions you are [behind],” Tressel said. “But he’s got to catch up.”
Regardless of setbacks, the offensive line will need to improve to help make the Buckeyes successful in the Big Ten this season.
“We want to try to finish plays better. We want to control the line of scrimmage more, in both run and pass, and give the other guys a chance to do their jobs,” offensive Coordinator Jim Bollman said. “When you give the running backs a little room to maneuver at the line of scrimmage, or you give the quarterback that little extra split second of time, things are always going to work out.”
Dealing with injuries and issues is a challenge, but it could be used as a way to bring the offensive line closer together.
“The talent is there,” Cordle said. “If we can come together as a unit, come together as a team, the talent is there with unlimited potential.”