Never let it be said Jim Cordle is naive.
"You know, they just came out with the Rimington watch list and they've got me on it, and I haven't even started a game yet," the favorite to be Ohio State's next starting center said last week in reference to the trophy bearing the name of former Nebraska center Dave Rimington and awarded to the nation's best at that crucial offensive position.
"I played in what, six games last year? All that is is, ‘Ok, this guy's going to be the center at Ohio State. He's got to be up for it.' "
Though the list actually came out in May, Cordle's consideration of himself as something of a legacy nominee was both a nod to the other men to man the center position this decade and an affirmation of his modesty.
Since head coach Jim Tressel and offensive coordinator/line coach Jim Bollman took over in Columbus in 2001, LeCharles Bentley, Alex Stepanovich, Nick Mangold and Doug Datish have taken their turns centering the Ohio State line, and all were named All-American or All-Big Ten (though Stepanovich's honor came as a guard after he slid over to make way for Mangold in 2003).
Besides being standout college players, all four went on to be drafted by NFL teams.
Now on the verge of being The Man, Cordle does not shy away from the legacy he will likely be charged with upholding.
"It's big shoes to fill. It's a lot of pressure coming in. I've got to live up to the tradition, which is a good thing because hopefully it will motivate me a little extra to step in there and do as good as those guys did," he said.
"I look at it partly as pressure but also an opportunity."
That he had a front-row seat for the last two years rather than his own spot on the field came as a surprise to some observers and recruiting analysts.
A four-star recruit from Lancaster, Cordle came to Ohio State as the No. 30 offensive lineman in the country and No. 2 in Ohio behind current teammate Alex Boone in Scout.com's 2005 ratings.
Shortly after enrolling early to take part in spring practice, Cordle began being groomed to follow Mangold, a senior-to-be who would be starting for a third season that fall.
The fast track caught the soft-spoken Cordle by surprise.
"When they first started recruiting me I had no idea I was good enough to be recruited here and then when I got here I worked my way up to second string and did pretty good," he said. "Then when I got hurt and the games came around Coach Bollman said, ‘If you wouldn't have been hurt, you wouldn't have been redshirted.' So I kind of think being redshirted was kind of a blessing in disguise in a way because I have an extra year to prepare for the NFL."
With Mangold firmly in control, the Buckeyes did not need Cordle that season, allowing him to spend the entire season rehabbing a foot injury.
Unfortunately, that process proved more difficult than he anticipated, and the physical setback took its toll on his ability to get a feel for the mental part of the position.
Finally healthy last fall, the 6-4, 280-pound Cordle said he began to get back into the process of learning how to control the offensive front.
He made his collegiate debut against Cincinnati and even got to block good friend and former high school teammate Jon Carpenter, a Bearcat linebacker and the younger brother of former Buckeye Bobby Carpenter, but Cordle remained a reserve for the duration of the season.
It was not a role he was about to complain about, and his reason was simple.
"I wasn't ready to play last year," he said matter-of-factly.
Cordle said the light began to truly come on for him this spring.
"I'm seeing things, seeing the defense, seeing things happen," he said. "Who's going to blitz, who's going to drop, seeing which way the d-line's going. All that."