The 6-4, 290-pound Mangold is a preseason candidate for the Rimington Award, given annually to the nation's best center (OSU's LeCharles Bentley won the award in 2001). Mangold is talented, but he's also experienced. He played valuable minutes on the national championship team in 2002 and became a starter one game into the 2003 season. Now that his senior season has arrived, Mangold intends to be one of the team's leaders.
"I would like to think so," he said. "Being in the position I am at center, I get to make a lot of calls, so that helps out a lot. But I also try and keep spirits up in the locker room with guys, so I've been working to try and solidify that leadership position."
Mangold says the strength of this year's offensive line is its versatility and depth. There are more quality offensive linemen on the roster than at any time during Mangold's career.
"Yeah, there are," Mangold said. "We've been running four groups during two-a-days and during all my time here we've never had four groups. That last group you've got to mix a couple guys in, but we've got a lot of people working. And it's not just that we have numbers, we've got a lot of good guys working hard too. So, it's exciting having all those guys behind us."
Offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Jim Bollman spends most of the time working with the O-line. But tight ends coach/recruiting coordinator John Peterson – a former lineman at OSU – also tutors the big guys up front.
"Coach P works with us a lot," Mangold said. "He does a lot with the tackles because being with the tight ends they have to be able to work together well. But, if I ever have any problems with anything I can go right to him if Bolls is busy with something. I can always talk to Coach P because he knows what's going on. He's right there in the thick of things."
The Buckeyes will be able to mix and match on the offensive line this season. Several players are versatile enough to play multiple positions.
"Oh yeah. I think there's a lot of guys who aren't entrenched in a position," Mangold said. "They feel as though they can move around. I think it's kind of a tribute to the guys we have here now who want to learn everything. And it's also Coach Bollman's philosophy that you've got to know every position on the line. Because it makes it a lot easier when you're at a position and you know what everyone else is doing on that play. It helps out a lot. And so, we have a lot of guys who can move around. I even played right tackle in practice the other day just to give Kirk (Barton) a rest since the other tackles were already doing something."
Everyone on the team seems excited about the move of Rob Sims from left tackle to left guard. It's been a rumored move for quite some time, but it's finally reality and no one is happier than Mangold.
"I personally love it," Mangold said. "It's a great move for Rob and for me. Because when you've got somebody as good as Rob is next to you it only makes you play even that much better. I'm a big fan. Each day I get to see how much that helps and how great it is.
"This has been a great camp with Rob being down there at guard. We've had a lot of time to come together, him and I. If he moves back to tackle I might have to shed a little tear because it's so much fun being able to play next to him. But, you know, if that's something that needs to be done, it needs to be done."
Mangold has been impressed with a few of the young offensive lineman, including a walk-on who is rarely mentioned.
"Jimmy (Cordle) was dong well until he hurt himself," he said. "Then you've got Kyle Mitchum who's been working hard trying to get things done as he progresses. And Tyler Whaley – who's a walk-on center – he's always done real well and he keeps showing that every day (Whaley is the third-strongest player on OSU's team in the bench press behind Mike Kudla and Rob Sims). So, we've got a lot of young guys who are working hard trying to make a name."
What about freshman tackle Alex Boone? Will he be able to help right away?
"Right now, I think he's doing real well with what he has to do to get in there," Mangold said. "I think he has to learn his plays a little bit more. Study up things. I remember when Rob and I were going through the same thing. It was the biggest thing that we had to do and we were in there every day trying to study up, trying to learn all the plays because it's such a mental game once you get to college compared to high school. So, he's worked well physically and I think he's still working on the mental game."
Mangold does not view OSU's quarterback situation as a big problem. Troy Smith is suspended for the opener against Miami University and has missed practice time. Justin Zwick is hobbled by an ankle sprain and Todd Boeckman has reportedly struggled in camp.
"By now, you're pretty much used to it," Mangold said with a laugh. "You just kind of expect it. If there wasn't a problem (at quarterback) I'd be a little worried. But, you know, it's kind of a blessing in disguise because you know you have three great guys who can come in and play at any moment's notice. You just have to figure out which ones you want to use at what times and everything. So, it's a good situation."
Whoever lines up at quarterback, Mangold expects that the Buckeyes will have a high-scoring offense this season.
"I'm pretty excited about it," he said. "Coming into it, you know, you hear the ‘explosive' and everything and you hear all these things, but then you get into practicing and you can actually see it and that just makes you much more excited about it. We've got so many great wide receivers and some great running backs who are doing really well this year in fall camp. Really working hard and getting things done. So, it's been pretty exciting."
As a leader, Mangold is trying to instill a winning attitude into the younger players. He remembers how the seniors in 2002 took him under their wing and wants to return the favor.
"I think the big thing is that desire to win a national championship," Mangold said. "When we came in here as freshmen and you had all the seniors we had that year and they all said, ‘We're working on winning a national championship. This is our goal; this is what we're going to do.' I think we're trying to bring that same thing along that we felt while they were there. Bringing that same thing for our young guys and saying, ‘We're going to win a national championship. That's something we're going to do, now let's work to get there.'"
Mangold faces OSU's defense every day in practice and says the unit is still one of the nation's best
"You watch our guys on film every day and you watch how they fly around, how they hit people, how they love being together on the field," he said. "They know how to work together to make plays. They really feed off of each other and make the big plays."
Mangold was asked if the defensive line has gotten the best of the offensive line at times during camp.
"They have and that's a testament to how good they are because I think we've got a pretty solid offensive line coming around," he said. "You've got guys like Quinn (Pitcock) and Marcus (Green) in there and some power guys on the end like Jay (Richardson) and Mike Kudla who are doing some great things. I think we've been able to neutralize them decently enough, but they're some pretty good players, so it's tough competition."
It's been said that linebacker Anthony Schlegel is the "free spirit" of the team. But don't forget about Mangold. He always keeps the mood light and can often be found joking around with his teammates.
"It's just fun being in the weight room – we've got some classic 80's on there," Mangold said. "I would figure if someone outside of our team walked in the weight room they would not expect the 80's to be on there. And here, we're all jamming to it inside the weight room."
Just which classic 80's tunes do the Buckeyes like to listen to?
"You name it," Mangold said. "Def Leppard, have to throw some Michael Jackson in there and have a good time. I mean, there's so many. You've got Whitesnake, Guns n' Roses, Pearl Jam, AC/DC."
Mangold is from Centerville and went to high school at Kettering Alter – the private catholic school that also produced OSU standouts Jeff Graham and Jerry Rudzinski.
Mangold and Hawk grew up in the same town, but Hawk went to Centerville High School – the alma mater of Kirk Herbstreit and Mike Nugent.
Alter and Centerville are only minutes apart, but since Alter is Division III in football and Centerville is D-I, Mangold and Hawk did not play against each other in high school.
"No we didn't," Mangold said. "We may have played freshman year, but he was on the varsity anyways his freshman year, so I never played against him. Our two schools – which is kind of funny – our soccer and basketball and baseball teams always played each other. But football teams never did."
But Mangold and Hawk were youth league teammates.
"Yeah, we played together in third grade and sixth grade; we managed to make the same team," Mangold said. "And that's when the split came and I went to the private junior team, I guess. There's some rule that if you go to a private school you can't play for a public team after sixth grade. So I moved over to Alter's junior high program and we didn't see each other until here."
Even back then, were Mangold and Hawk the best players on the team?
"Well, I know he was," Mangold said. "We always had people talking about him. You know, ‘That A.J. he's a good player and everything.' I think I just kind of ran around for a long while. Didn't really come into my own until junior year of high school. But he definitely was a standout player even back then."
Hawk was a running back in his early years. Mangold played all over the field.
"I was anything and everything, I think," Mangold said. "A little guard at a time, some D-end, middle linebacker, maybe a little tackle. But I was always too heavy to run the ball, so I couldn't play any tight end or anything. I had a nice little mix of a lot of positions."
Mangold's sister – Hollie – is a sophomore football player at Alter. And it's not a novelty act. From all reports, she's a good player. And just like her brother, she plays on the offensive line.
It might embarrass some men to have their sister playing football, but Mangold is proud of her.
"She does what she has to do and does it pretty well from what I hear," he said. "I haven't really been able to watch her since pee-wees because our two seasons coincide. But I am going to get home pretty soon to see her play. She does well and she loves the game, so you can't fault her for that."
Does Hollie pick her brother's brain from time to time, getting some tips on how to excel on the offensive line?
"No, I kind of let her do her own thing; let her work on her own," Mangold said. "Back when she was in pee-wees I did a lot of coaching and my dad (Vern) was the coach so I would do a lot of coaching then. But after that I kind of let her coaches tell her what she needs to do and everything like that because I don't want to tell her one thing and then have her coaches tell her another thing and then have that kind of clash. So, I just let her focus in on her coaches."
Hollie will likely play junior varsity ball this year (she was a starter on Alter's freshman team last year) but she is hoping to make the varsity. "I haven't heard (if she will play JV or varsity)," Mangold said. "That kind of why I'm going this weekend to see if she gets in the first (varsity) game and then I'll be able to catch her JV game if she plays there."