Mewhort Settling Into Major Role

The Ohio Sate offensive line had some depth issues during spring football, but some of the younger players at the position have stepped up big. One of those players that has a bright future is Toledo native Jack Mewhort, now fitting in as a Buckeyes starter.

Playing his high school football at St. John's Jesuit, Jack Mewhort's reputation didn't have to travel far to reach the Toledo football offices.

That's the reason why the Rockets were hot on Mewhort's trail early, as Toledo was one of the first college football programs to formally extend the big offensive lineman a scholarship offer.

"There were teams that were scared to death of him," said Doug Pearson, Mewhort's high school head coach at St. Johns. "He was a very feared guy and you could see it in how they tried to combat his skills. They tried to get him to chase."

With blonde hair and a smile that rarely comes off his face, Mewhort doesn't quite look like someone to fear. Save for the immense size of his 6-6, 303-pound frame, Mewhort sports a relatively welcoming demeanor.

Describing himself as the "gentle giant" — something changes when he gets on the football field. That's where the reputation comes in.

"I watched him in high school literally pick up linebackers and power bomb them on plays," Pearson remembered. "I don't even know if that was legal, but nobody ever called it on him. He was a very feared guy."

In effort to combat Mewhort's dominant play, Pearson said opposing teams would refrain from lining defensive lineman across from him in hopes they could tire him out by forcing him to chase linebackers.

Even that plan backfired, only making for more fond memories for Mewhort's former head coach.

"He took good angles and once he got those big paws on a linebacker he was going to take them for a ride past the free safety," Pearson said. "That was the best part of watching him play."

Eventually the legend that was Mewhort extended past the local scene and spread roughly two hours south in Columbus. Once Ohio State became interested — and eventually offered — interest in Mewhort continued to skyrocket.

Despite growing up an avid Rockets fan with a father that graduated from Toledo's law school, Mewhort felt Ohio State was the best place for him. Toledo, however, was close to landing his services.

"Really early in the recruiting process, they were the hometown team and they came in real strong when I was younger," Mewhort said of Toledo. "I definitely gave them a great look because they're a great school. It definitely crossed my mind earlier in the recruiting process that I might go to Toledo, but then the other schools came into play, and it didn't turn out that way."

With senior tackle Mike Adams out for the first five games of the season while serving a suspension, Ohio State offensive line coach Jim Bollman was forced to move players around to various positions during spring practice.

The versatility gained while playing at St. Johns, where he was named an All-Ohio selection before becoming a member of the gold medal winning Team USA in the 2009 Junior World Championships, helped Mewhort earned the starting position.

"It has been a lot of learning on the mental side," Mewhort said. "It has been a lot of physical work. Picking up the techniques, picking up the system, and working with Coach Bollman. "It has been a journey, but the journey is what makes it what it is. I am happy where I am now to finally be a starter and I am just going to keep working and capitalize on all the opportunities that I have."

Pearson had contact with Bollman while Mewhort was still in high school and Ohio State offensive coordinator advised him to help the offensive line prospect become more versatile up front. In doing so, Mewhort played center, guard, and tackle during his prep days. That experience, in turn, has put Mewhort in the position to contribute early in his career for an Ohio State offensive line that has been subject to its fair share of transition.

"In college football, you have to be tough in the Big Ten and guys are going to get banged up," Pearson said. "That's just the way it is. You're going to play eight to 10 linemen every game and if you can play all three spots then certainly you're going to get onto the field.

"That's why we played him all over," he continued. "We gave him the tough match up for the week. If the team had an outstanding nose, he was going to play center. If they had good defensive ends, he was the tackle. He was just really, really good for us."

His former roommate and close friend J.B. Shugarts described him as "chill," as Mewhort always seems to sport that easy-going mentality when off the field.

But that mean streak that helped him become one of the best prospects in his recruiting class has transition into college football.

"You have to turn it on when you get in between those white lines," Mewhort said. "That's the mentality that I have. Play hard and tough with effort. I try to have a different type of mentality when I am playing football. I can turn it on and off."

Playing in only his second game as a starter against his hometown Rockets Sept. 10, Mewhort is still relatively new to being a key player for the Buckeyes. And given it is just his sophomore season, he has a lot of time to continue to develop.

But on his current trajectory, senior center Mike Brewster has already been floored by the way Mewhort has been able to catch on to the college game.

"Jack's going to be a really good player," said Brewster, who lives with Mewhort. "He really does remind me a lot of myself, work ethic. He's a natural athlete. He has good feet. He's got a mean streak, yet he's a very nice guy off the field.

"I just see a lot of things in myself in him and really want to help him have a good year and teach him as much as I can before I leave." Given Brewster is an All-American center that many expect will make the transition to the NFL after his final season with the Buckeyes, Mewhort could be on to something by following in his footsteps.

Brewster, who started as a freshman, never took the developmental year Mewhort did. In the long run, however, Brewster said the extra year Mewhort had to adjust while redshirting could make him that much better in the long run.

"Jack ended up redshirting," Brewster said. "He was behind Justin Boren and Bryant Browning, who had started two years next to me. I definitely think he's going to be a guy that will have a chance to go pro for sure."

For now, Mewhort is more than happy growing as a player while helping the Buckeyes under first-year head coach Luke Fickell. The redshirt sophomore knows he has all the potential in the world, but he understands he has a lot to learn.

"I feel like I have always worked hard but now I really have to be consistent and keep working and giving great effort," said Mewhort when discussing the responsibilities of being a starter. "I feel like if I play tough and with effort, I can capitalize and keep getting better."

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