NOT BLADE PHOTO Enlarge
COLUMBUS - The Ohio State football team is one-third of the way through the 2009 schedule, and freshman offensive lineman Jack Mewhort has been there for every practice, every workout, and every team meeting the Buckeyes have held.
Mewhort has been there for all four games, he's been suited up, knee braces on and helmet in hand. But because the more veteran Ohio State linemen have played well and for the most part avoided injury, Mewhort's debut with the Buckeyes (3-1) might wait until the 2010 season.
"Right now, it looks like I'll probably redshirt this year, and I don't have a problem with that," Mewhort said recently. Redshirting allows freshmen players to use their first year to practice and travel with the team, gain strength, and get acclimated to the demands of college life without sacrificing a year of eligibility.
"When I decided to come here, I knew there was a chance I might play right away, and a good chance I would be able to redshirt. I saw it as a win-win kind of deal for me, so either way, it's a positive thing."
Mewhort was one of the most sought-after linemen in the country after an outstanding high school career at St. John's Jesuit, where he earned first team All-Ohio honors. He played center, guard and tackle for the Titans and was often the dominant player on the field.
After committing to Ohio State, Mewhort enrolled in January and got an early start with the Buckeyes. He participated in winter conditioning and spring practice while at Ohio State, and this past summer was named to the all-tournament team after helping the United States win the gold medal at the Junior World Championship held in Canton.
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said Mewhort was "probably on the bubble on the offensive line" when Tressel was asked a couple of weeks ago about the likelihood of Mewhort playing for the Buckeyes this season. Since then, Ohio State seems to have settled in with a seven or eight man rotation to cover the five inside positions along the line.
For last Saturday's game against Illinois, Mewhort was listed third on the depth chart at center, although in practice he has worked at all three positions on the line. Starting center Mike Brewster, a sophomore from Florida who worked his way into the lineup last year as a true freshman, is backed up by senior Andrew Moses, who also serves as the backup to Bryant Browning at right guard.
Sophomore J.B. Shugarts is the starter at right tackle, while junior Justin Boren starts at left guard and sophomore Mike Adams or junior Andrew Miller start at left tackle. Browning plays both guard and tackle on the right side, while Miller plays both positions on the left side, and Moses plays center and guard, so OSU line coach Jim Bollman has a variety of options.
"One thing coach Bollman is comfortable with is this - we've got three or four guys that can play center," Tressel said. "Sometimes you get nervous about you don't have enough centers - guys who can make the calls and snap the ball and all the rest."
The Buckeyes were forced to shuffle their offensive line a bit two weeks ago when senior Jim Cordle injured his ankle, but Tressel and Bollman still have not had to tap into their cache of freshman talent on the line that includes Mewhort, Sam Longo, Corey Linsley, and Marcus Hall.
"There are a lot of great players here - a lot of veteran guys who can really play - so I won't be disappointed if I end up redshirting this year. That is the usual route for offensive linemen, so I'm great with that," Mewhort said.
"I look at it as a chance to learn more, get stronger and quicker, and just improve in every phase of the game. In a couple of years, I think I'll really appreciate the fact that I got that extra year, if that's what it works out to be."
Tressel said he tells his recruits to approach every practice with the intention of competing, and then let the decisions on redshirting be made at the appropriate time, after injuries and performance are evaluated.
"Obviously, all of it's based on health and everything else," Tressel said. "You can activate a guy whenever you want to."
Heading into this week's game at Indiana, the Buckeyes have recorded two consecutive shutouts, and scored 68 points in that pair of games. The offensive line did not allow a sack against Illinois, while pushing the Illini around to the tune of 236 yards rushing and a 5.1 yards per carry average.
COLEMAN SUSPENDED: Ohio State senior safety and captain Kurt Coleman has been suspended by the Big Ten for this week's game against Indiana because of a helmet-to-helmet hit he made on Illinois backup quarterback Eddie McGee late in the Buckeyes 30-0 win.
Coleman was flagged for a personal foul on the play but was not ejected. He was removed from the game at the time of the penalty by the OSU coaches.
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel and athletic director Gene Smith issued a joint statement yesterday saying the hit by Coleman was not "pre-meditated" and that he was not "targeting a defenseless" player.
The statement said the conference was showing "poor judgment" in hitting Coleman with the one-game suspension, but that Ohio State would not appeal the Big Ten's decision.
Contact Matt Markey at
or 419-724-6510.39.96196 -83.00298