Mangold talks Fiesta Bowl and beyond

The Buckeyes are underdogs in this Friday's Fiesta Bowl, but that doesn't bother Nick Mangold one bit. Dave Biddle talked about that with him recently as well as what to look for from the offensive line next year.

Sophomore center Nick Mangold enjoys the underdog role. He looks in the newspaper, sees that Ohio State is a 7-point dog to Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl, and just smiles.

"Oh yeah, that gives us another challenge," he said. "I think going in as an underdog just gives us more reason to win. If we were expected to win, and we won, it wouldn't be that big of a deal. But this is going to be fun going in as the underdog, just like last year."

Mangold is not concerned about earning some national respect for the Buckeyes in the Fiesta Bowl. He couldn't care less about stuff like that.

"I think the respect thing is through everyone else," he said. "Between us as a team, we know what goes on and I know we have respect within ourselves. We'll let the people who do the talking, do the talking."

The 6-foot-4, 285-pound Mangold was a mainstay on the offensive line this season; definitely the most consistent player of the group.

Early in the year, he was backing up Alex Stepanovich, but would enter the game early, and push Stepanovich to guard.

Then, when Stepanovich hurt his ankle against San Diego State, Mangold took over the center duties for good. When Stepanovich returned to the starting lineup, he was in there at guard.

Mangold's playing time didn't come as a surprise to very many. He played a considerable amount off the bench in 2002 as a true freshman on the national championship team and played quite well.

"I'm still a little surprised I played that much last year," Mangold said. "I was not expecting it, but it was definitely good experience for me."

Looking ahead to 2004, Mangold will be one of the few offensive linemen with experience on the roster. Rob Sims and Mike Kne will be the only other "veterans" with big-game experience.

Even with a lot of young guys, Mangold is confident that the offensive line will be solid next year, and especially in 2005.

"The improvement that the guys have done this year, some of the guys that have come in with me, has been great and it's going to pose a big challenge in the spring to try and figure out what the line is going to look like," he said.

Mangold gave us an extensive sneak peak at the possibilities for the '04 O-line.

"Robbie has been doing awesome, so I don't see that changing anywhere.

"Doug Datish, who has been behind me for a little bit at center, I think they'll move him out to guard, maybe, or keep him at center. He's been doing great; learning a lot of things and he's really been contributing to the team that way. So, he's right there in the forefront to get in that spot next year.

"T.J. Downing's been working real hard. Definitely improving on his pass blocking and you can tell that right away. He's been playing tackle.

"(Tim) Schafer has been coming around and learning and he's been on the two-deep at tackle as long as I can remember. He's been doing great.

"Kirk (Barton) came in and was able to use his athletic talent to get moving, but now he's learning things and that makes it so much easier. He's been doing real good; he's a tackle and is in the two-deep.

"R.J. Coleman has been hampered a little bit by an injury for a while, but he definitely has the potential to be one of the great linemen. I think he's been playing guard.

"Mike Kne of course has proven he can play. He's done it in games and stuff, so he's right there in the forefront.

"We also have Adam Olds and (Andree) Tyree in there that can play," Mangold said.

Overall, despite the youth, there seems to be some decent talent and depth in the stable.

"Yeah, I think so," Mangold said. "We're going to be pretty young next year. Spring's definitely going to be a learning time for a lot of us, and a gelling time. I think it's crucial that we gel so we kind of have that feeling that we know what's going to happen with the guys next to us. So, it's definitely going to be an opportunity this spring to be able to come out and gel together and learn a lot of things."

We also tried to ask Mangold his opinion on OSU's young "skill" athletes that he'll be playing with for the next few years. Guys like Justin Zwick, Troy Smith, Santonio Holmes and Roy Hall.

"Skill guys? Don't take away from the O-line's skill," Mangold quipped. "No, I think it's going to be nice. We have a lot of young guys on the offense and that will give us a lot of time to play on the same offense together and gel for the next couple of years.

"I noticed that with the guys that are in right now, like Craig (Krenzel), and Alex, and (Michael) Jenkins and a bunch of those guys. They've been able to be around together and play together for a while, so they've been able to click and have been able to produce that way. It's kind of like they know what the other one is thinking out on the field and I think that's a big bonus and I think we'll be able to get that as we play and continue through."

Compared to some of his teammates, Mangold is rather small for an O-lineman. He reported at 270-pounds last year, and has added about 15 pounds of muscle since then.

"I just try and put on muscle and I've been able to keep (my weight) down," he said. "That's one of the plusses for me is that the weight is a little bit lower. Makes it easier for me to move."

As a "skill" guy like Mangold, quickness is paramount.

"Exactly, exactly. That's very important to have as a skill guy," he joked.

Speaking of jokes, offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Jim Bollman has been on the receiving end of some from OSU fans recently. Although he doesn't call the plays, Bollman has been blamed for some of the offensive woes. Many also feel the offensive line hasn't improved as much as they expected it would, or should.

But don't tell Mangold any of this. He considers Bollman an excellent O-line coach.

"I've learned that he might be one of the brightest guys about football that I've met, or have been with," he said. "The stuff that he comes up with is amazing. He's been able to teach me a ton of stuff about what I'm doing and about plays. Getting the idea of the play, not just who you're blocking, but understand the concept. He's helped me out a ton."

Mangold also disputes the fact that the Buckeyes aren't up for the Fiesta Bowl. He was asked if the players seem more into it now, then when the news was first announced (some players seemed disappointed at first).

"I don't know. I was pretty pumped when I first heard we were going back to the Fiesta Bowl," he said. "It's a BCS bowl and it's a great opportunity for us to be able to go to the national championship, and then repeat with a BCS bowl. So, I was pretty excited and I think a lot of the other guys were excited too.

"Some might have been hoping to go down to the Orange Bowl for a little change of flavor, but I think most of the guys were excited to hear about the Fiesta Bowl, because we were hearing we might not even go to a BCS bowl."

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