Bollman Shuffling Shorthanded O-Line

Spring has sprung, and it has been a tiring one for a depleted OSU offensive line that lost eight players from a season ago. Only that same amount of scholarship players remain among 11 overall linemen, so the Buckeyes and line coach Jim Bollman have had to get creative while trying to fill two-and-a-half spots come September.

If Michael Brewster, J.B. Shugarts and the rest of the Ohio State offensive linemen seem unnaturally tired this spring, they have a good reason to be.

The Buckeyes have only 11 linemen in school for spring ball, eight of whom are scholarship players. As a result, the Buckeyes have scuffled to put together two full lines, and a third line is but a pipe dream for position coach Jim Bollman and his charges.

Of course, as one might expect, those players strapping on the knee braces and hitting the field are not complaining.

"A few extra reps can only really help you," Brewster said. "A little extra work isn't going to kill us. We're definitely taking a few extra reps this spring, but like coach said, it's going to be hard on us but it's going to pay off in the future."

The situation comes in stark contrast to the spring of 2010 when the Buckeyes boasted 13 scholarship linemen, but graduation hit the line hard for the Buckeyes.

Gone are three-year starter Bryant Browning and Justin Boren, players lost to graduation who spent the past two seasons starting at right guard and left guard, respectively. Also out are backup tackles Andrew Miller and Josh Kerr along with guard Connor Smith and two players who entered OSU as walk-ons but later earned scholarships for their play in center Scott Sika and guard Chris Malone.

Add in the transfer of tackle Sam Longo and Ohio State knew it was going to be a stretch to fill spots coming into the spring, especially considering only one of the four class of 2011 recruits along the line – Akron native Tommy Brown – enrolled early.

"A lot of reps and a lot of multi-learning," Bollman said when asked what he expected for the spring on National Signing Day. "We have to be able to get ready to go without counting on any newcomers, so guys are going to need to learn to play multiple positions."

That is exactly what has happened as the Buckeyes attempt to fill the two vacated guard spots as well as left tackle Mike Adams' position for the first five games because of his suspension for violating NCAA rules.

Perhaps the busiest lineman has been Jack Mewhort, who has lined up at center, guard and tackle during practices open to the media. Both Marcus Hall and Andrew Norwell have played both guard and tackle as well, while Corey Linsley has primarily lined up at guard but has also backed up Brewster at center.

"It's not like any spring I've been here for," Brewster said of all the rotating. "To be honest, I've been really impressed by how those guys have responded to all the positions they've been playing. The first few days were a little slow, but ever since then they've been doing a really good job."

The two spots that are set on the line belong to Brewster, who has started 36 games in a row at center since taking over in his freshman season, and third-year right tackle Shugarts.

In addition to perfecting their crafts and spending more time on the field because of the depth issues, those two have had to help bring along the younger players as well.

"You have to pass down your wisdom and your knowledge that you've learned," Brewster said. "We're just trying to help out some of the younger guys that aren't really sure what they're doing. Everyone is really just trying to help out. If we can be a coach on the field, that puts us a step ahead."

At the guard spots, Mewhort has been the No. 1 left guard and Linsley the top player on the right side whenever the media has been present, while the left tackle spot in Adams' absence seems to be a question. Hall has spent the most time as the No. 2 left tackle in front of the media, but Norwell has been getting time and got some reps in Shugarts' spot with the ones on Tuesday.

"The left tackle position, that's really the main one we have to find someone to fill that spot," Shugarts said. "I think those guys are doing a great job. Moving from side to side and all over the line, that's not easy at all. Being able to do that is going to make them all that much better no matter where they play."

Ohio State will get more depth when center Brian Bobek and guards Antonio Underwood and Chris Carter arrive in the fall, but in the meantime Shugarts likes what the Buckeyes are doing up front.

"The way that we've been rotating guys in and out all of spring, I feel like we have a solid seven or eight guys that are good enough to play, and I don't think we're going to miss a beat," Shugarts said.

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