LOS ANGELES — Junior center Michael Jordan has not made a decision about his future yet, whether he would forgo his final season of collegiate eligibility to enter the NFL Draft.
He said there were many things that go into a decision like this that he would have to sit down and think about. But two come first in his mind. The first is an obvious one: where he would be drafted.
But the other one is different: whether he could play left guard next year.
Jordan said, even if he returns to Ohio State next season, that he would want to make the return to guard, the position he played on the offensive line for the first two seasons of his college career, the position he earned a freshman All-American honor in his first year and a first-team All-Big Ten honor in his second.
But for Jordan, it comes down to his personal preference between the two positions.
“I feel like I would be more comfortable playing [guard],” Jordan said. “I didn’t get comfortable or used to [playing center] until halfway through the season.”
Ohio State offensive coordinator and incoming head coach Ryan Day said the move from center back to guard would be a discussion even prior to the Rose Bowl game on Jan. 1, but was very praiseworthy of the junior lineman and what he had done for the offensive line this season.
“I can’t say enough what he did this year to step into that role, somebody his size, too, and how well he did and making first All-American awards, you can’t say enough about his unselfishness,” Day said.
Day said Ohio State will look at redshirt freshman offensive lineman Josh Myers as the center, which he viewed as the ideal move for the future.
“Josh has really improved this year,” Day said. “That would be a nice move for us to move Josh to center and then Mike over to guard.”
The center position is a completely different position than the guard position Jordan moved from. Being planted in the center of an offensive line, he was thrust into what many look to as a leadership position on the offense, with the responsibilities and duties of not only making sure he is set, but the rest of the line is set and prepared for any given play.
Through this role, Jordan had the unique position of seeing what went well for the offensive line and what didn’t. He said at the beginning of the season the expectations, especially due to the pure physical nature of each of the linemen, were extremely high.
“I said this in camp, we were going to be a dominant offensive line, so we were really physical,” Jordan said. “One thing that we can focus on more is doing it all the time.”
But leading an offensive line with a changing offense behind him, Jordan did not find the same success, especially in run blocking. Coming into the 2018 season as the reigning No. 1 rush offense in the Big Ten, Ohio State heads into the Rose Bowl as No. 7 in the conference in terms of rushing, averaging 4.2 yards a carry as a team.
Much of this may had to do with the level of comfort Jordan had in the middle, reverting back and forth from pass to run blocking for a changing offense, initially going with a run-pass option as its main base.
He also said the guard position provides Jordan more room to work with in terms of blocking.
“There’s less space between you and a defensive lineman. He’s right there,” Jordan said. “Guard, I feel like I can get off, I can really accelerate. I think I have a lot more knockdowns as guard. That’s always fun.”
The leadership aspect of the center position is much more than being a rah-rah, vocal leader for the five players up front. It’s much more technical, something Jordan learned how to adjust to.
“I think I have grown in the sense of playing football, becoming football smart because you have to, when you are playing the game, you don’t have time to think,” Jordan said. “You only have time to react to things.”
This has been an experiment Ohio State had tried twice before, and twice before, the results have been pretty close to perfection. After the switch from guard to center, both Pat Elflein and Billy Price were awarded the Rimington Award as the best center in college football and are now starting for NFL teams at the center position.
Jordan received his share of accolades for his work in the middle, being named as a first-team All-American honors from Sports Illustrated, a second-team All-Big Ten team member and a second-team All-American from the Walter Camp Football Foundation.
However, he still admits that he wants to play guard for the long term, looking at himself as a more natural fit at the position. But he did say it was an important thing that sets him apart from other guards around the country, being able to play multiple positions on the line.
There is one more game still to be played. One game that he will have to be the leader of the offensive line, setting protections for the five players up front.
In Urban Meyer’s last game as the head coach Ohio State, Jordan said his main focus is, “to play center to the best of my ability,” even if it’s not where he wants to be playing.
Updated with quotes from Ohio State offensive coordinator and incoming head coach Ryan Day at 9:51 a.m.