Mewhort pegged for OSU starting role

Toledo's Hayes, Gambrell practicing with third team

8/22/2011
BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Ohio State coach Luke Fickell waits with his team during yesterday's media day at Ohio Stadium. The Buckeyes open Sept. 3 against Akron.
Ohio State coach Luke Fickell waits with his team during yesterday's media day at Ohio Stadium. The Buckeyes open Sept. 3 against Akron.

COLUMBUS -- When he arrived at Ohio State three seasons ago, Jack Mewhort didn't set any clear-cut goals related to playing time.

He simply wanted "to contribute as soon as possible." Mewhort, a St. John's Jesuit graduate, is delivering on his objective.

In 2009 he redshirted, a standard practice for most offensive linemen making the transition from high school to college. A year ago Mewhort was second-string, earning a varsity letter.

Mewhort is two weeks away from making another leap in his development, as he is expected to start at left guard when the Buckeyes begin their season Sept. 3 against Akron.

"It just feels good to finally get in there and do my thing," he said yesterday at Ohio Stadium during the team's media day festivities. "I'm happy for the opportunity and I'm going to capitalize on it the best I can."

Although Dane Sanzenbacher, a Central Catholic graduate, has moved on to the NFL, the Toledo-to-Columbus pipeline isn't drying up anytime soon.

Joining Mewhort this summer at OSU were freshmen DerJuan Gambrell (Rogers) and Kenny Hayes (Whitmer).

Gambrell, at cornerback, and Hayes, at defensive end, are practicing with the third-team defense during preseason camp. Redshirting is a possibility for both, but so is playing time.

"Now that Dane's gone, it's good to have two guys come in," Mewhort said. "It's kind of cool. It's a connection that we share."

A fourth Buckeye hailing from northwest Ohio is redshirt freshman Ben St. John, a walk-on offensive lineman who graduated from Woodmore.

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Mewhort put on 10 pounds over the offseason and weighs 310, a physical improvement he attributes to first-year assistant strength and conditioning coach Anthony Schlegel, who played linebacker for the Buckeyes from 2004-05.

Mewhort's added bulk should lend itself well to opening running lanes for a stable of running backs he thinks are "the best backs in the country."

Facing uncertainty at quarterback, many assume the Buckeyes and first-year coach Luke Fickell will rely heavily on a ground-and-pound game consisting of Dan Herron, Jaamal Berry, Jordan Hall, Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith. Herron, the only senior of the group, is suspended for the first five games for his part in the famous tattoos for memorabilia scandal that cost former coach Jim Tressel his job in May.

Ohio State Buckeye football player and former St. John's grad Jack Mewhort.
Ohio State Buckeye football player and former St. John's grad Jack Mewhort.

Mewhort said he and his teammates have moved on from the rocky offseason.

"The one thing coach Fickell was big on is, what we're focusing on in that meeting room is the 100 or so guys on this football team," Mewhort said. "We're a really cohesive team, and I think it brought us closer together."

Gambrell and Hayes have become closer this summer. As members of rival teams in the City League, they only knew each other casually while in high school. Now they are good friends, Hayes said, and spend much of their downtime together playing video games in the team hotel.

Gambrell, known to most by his nickname "Peewee," played safety in high school but feels comfortable at cornerback. He did well in Saturday's intersquad scrimmage, recording two tackles and providing solid pass coverage. If he plays this year, it could be primarily on special teams.

"My coach will make the decision," Gambrell said. "I'm just going to play, practice, and show what I can do."

Hayes is in a similar boat. He's finding college ball has little in common with the high school game, when he sort of roamed free along the line and found plays to make. Now he's focusing on the details and is studying his playbook "a lot."

Perhaps the highlight of Hayes' camp thus far was winning a pass-rushing drill against Mewhort, which he admits was a surprise.

"I bull rushed him a little bit and got to the quarterback," Hayes said. "That was big for me because I didn't think I'd be able to move Jack because he's big and strong."

Contact Ryan Autullo at: rautullo@theblade.com or 419-724-6160.