Senior center Nick Mangold says there are now at least a dozen players in the program that are talented enough to be starters in the Big Ten.
"It's great," Mangold said of the depth. "We're going through stuff (Tuesday) and Jim Cordle came in, so we have another body in there. You just see all kinds of guys going through the drills, doing things that they can do and it's exciting to watch. You've got so many opportunities to have people fill in, to have people replace someone in the middle of a scrimmage or something, and not have any drop-off. There's such a great competition that we have going heading into Thursday and it should be exciting to see where guys go and how they do with that kind of competition."
Offensive line coach Jim Bollman said in early February that he envisions the Buckeyes using an O-line rotation this fall, much like what we have seen from OSU's defensive line over the last few years. Mangold and senior tackle/guard Rob Sims likely will not leave the game very often, but the other three spots could be part of a rotation.
"Coach Bolls always talks about being able to rotate a lot of guys in, so maybe now that he's got a lot of people that he wants, maybe he'll be able to get that going," Mangold said. "I'm not really sure though. It's exciting because every once in a while you'll get a fresh face in there and that brings some extra enthusiasm to the action."
The extra competition will only make the offensive line better. Players will be pushing each other all of spring and into preseason camp.
"If you know a guy is breathing down your neck trying to take your job, you are going to work that much harder," Mangold said. "We all are out there working hard, but I don't know, when guys are pushing each other for starting jobs, that will just make us better as an offensive line. I'm pretty happy with the way things are shaping up right now."
"You've got to be able to take a hit," Mangold said. "You've got to be able to take a hit from someone like A.J. (Hawk) and Bobby (Carpenter) and get right back up and go, again and again. That's something that you've got to come around with.
"And Erik, I didn't really get a chance to see him run all that much because he didn't really practice that much with us (the first team) as the season went on. But, from what I've heard, he's a strong runner, put his head down and gets that extra yard when he needs to. And that's something that you need, extra yardage. So, it should be exciting to see what they can do."
The Buckeyes are historically known as a power running team, but they had the majority of their offensive success last year when they spread the field with four receivers. Yes, offensive linemen like playing smash-mouth football, but Mangold also enjoys switching to the shotgun-spread at times.
"It is a little more… I don't want to say easier, but it kind of nicer, maybe, because you don't have nine guys in the box knowing that you are going to have somebody uncovered and that might be the play stopper," he said. "And having your guys just being able to dig in and say, ‘I'm going to stay in this gap and you're not going to move me.' It's kind of nice having it spread out and having people worried about whether we're going to go off this way, are we going to go off this way. Now you've got to play a little more tentative and that really gives us a chance to get in.
"But, you know, I was able to play with guys who were in the lineup here and smash our heads against nine guys, and we don't care. And that's kind of fun as well. Because, if it's working, it's exciting knowing that you're walking up to that line and you see them all and they know that you're going to run, and we say, ‘We're going to run it anyway and here it comes.' So, you know, it's kind of a toughness attitude that we are going to keep working on, as we've been doing over the winter. Really getting into the spring and just saying, ‘We're going to put our head down; we're going to run the ball and no one is going to stop us.'"
Mangold also commented on junior quarterback Troy Smith, who learned Monday that he will be suspended for the opener against Miami University as expected.
"I feel bad for Troy," Mangold said. "It's that one negative incident that you get scarred with for most of your life. It seems that no one is talking about what a great Michigan game he had anymore, it's now what he did off the field. So, I feel bad for him on that."
Mangold is not concerned that the football program will be hit with NCAA sanctions.
"Being able to talk to guys and seeing what's going on, I don't really see any of the allegations are true," he said. "I'm personally not worried about it, because I don't think any of it is true.
"You hear so much on ESPN and all the other people that's real negative and you get tired of hearing it when you know most of it's not true. I can talk to people and say, ‘Hey, I've been hearing these things, but that's not how it really happened, or how it's been going on.' But people like to grab something and run with it and that creates a cloud around you."
Mangold was reminded that ESPN has not trashed OSU recently and maybe the situation has finally blown over.
"Yeah, lately there hasn't been much, but I haven't talked to the media since that drum has been hit hard," Mangold said. "But when someone asks me, ‘What's going on with the NCAA?' that resounds in my mind what was going on with ESPN. So, it hasn't been lately and we're real happy about that. Maybe people are starting to realize it's not as bad as everyone wants to say it is and things are starting to calm the waters."