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COLUMBUS - It's been a long time between football games for St. John's Jesuit grad Jack Mewhort, but his next one is so close, he can almost taste it.
After the Ohio State Buckeyes completed spring workouts last weekend, Mewhort was reminded that the next time his team assembles in August, he will be preparing for the real thing.
"It's awesome - I'm really excited and looking forward to it, even though it's still April and we won't start the season until early September," the redshirt freshman offensive lineman said.
"If you love football like most of us do, you go to practice and you do all of the work, but if you're not playing you really miss the games. The preparation is an important part of it, but there's something really special about the games, and the energy and all that's involved."
Mewhort (6-6, 290), who was All-Ohio at St. John's, committed to the Buckeyes as a junior, and then graduated a semester early so he could enroll at Ohio State and take part in spring football in 2009. As is the case with most offensive linemen, the plan going in was for Mewhort to sit out the 2009 season to work on his strength and technique and retain four years of eligibility.
While practicing and traveling with the team last season, he was dressed and prepared to play each week, in the event of injuries to the Ohio State veterans.
That scenario did not materialize, so Mewhort never took the field for the Buckeyes.
He will enter the 2010 season with 20 months as a Buckeye under his belt and knowing he is part of the active rotation on the offensive line.
Save for a few exhibition-type all-star games and the past two Ohio State spring games, he has not played in live competition since his senior season at St. John's. But the waiting and watching are over.
"I'm excited about the future," said Mewhort, who was an important part of the winning Gray team in the OSU spring game. "My coaches told me to be patient and get myself ready because my time would come, and I feel like I've done that.
"I'm a lot more comfortable now, and I feel like I'm a lot more ready to play and help this team out in any way I can."
Mewhort's role has evolved and covered three positions on the OSU line, and it will likely continue to evolve during his time with the Buckeyes. He played tackle last spring, worked at center and guard during practice last season, and has settled into the right guard position this spring, backing up senior Bryant Browning.
"I still take snaps every now and then, but I've moved away from center and jumped over to guard," Mewhort said. "One thing I think that's helped me out a lot is I'm pretty versatile. My size allows me to do a lot of different things. I can play center, I can play guard. I can play anywhere they need me to play."
Mewhort said that Ohio State offensive line coach Jim Bollman has told him that if he continues to improve his footwork, Mewhort could move to tackle for the Buckeyes at some point.
"We feel fortunate we were able to redshirt Jack, and now we'll have him around for four more years," Bollman said. "He's gotten a lot better, and shown us the versatility to play several different positions. Jack's a very valuable part of our future."
Mewhort said preparing himself to play each week of the 2009 season, without knowing whether or not he would be on the field was very challenging. But now he sees the value in experiencing all of the practices, the conditioning, the team meetings, the game atmospheres both at home and on the road, and the rest of the myriad activities surrounding Ohio State football.
"It's really hard, forcing yourself to be patient and wait for your time and your chance to play, but I'm glad I did the redshirt thing, and I'm glad it's over," Mewhort said.
"All along, Ohio State - this is where I wanted to be - and I knew it would take a lot of work to adjust to this level, and learn everything you need to know. I've still got a lot to work on, but knowing I'll be playing now - that's awesome. That's exciting to think about."
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