Fighting For A Spot

Even before he set foot on campus at Ohio State, Evan Blankenship knew his chances of playing as a true freshmen were slim to none after suffering a broken foot prior to his arrival. Now as he enters his first spring with the Buckeyes, Blankenship speaks out on his chances for playing time, his health and where he might fit in along the offensive line.

To describe this as a big spring for Evan Blankenship might be a bit of an understatement.

Entering his redshirt freshman season, the native of Monaca, Pa., finds himself as one of several Ohio State offensive linemen trying to fight his way into the mix for playing time. But on a team that welcomed in three of the nation's top linemen in the country in its most recent recruiting class to join a roster that lost just one lineman from a season ago, Blankenship faces a crowded picture in front of him.

Factor in a season almost entirely lost due to a foot injury, and the climb appears even steeper for the 6-3, 298-pound Blankenship.

"I don't know if I have any pressure," he told BuckeyeSports.com. "Obviously everybody's going to be competing for a spot but I feel as if I've been here throughout a season. Nobody wants to lose their spot, so I'm just another one of the guys trying to get a spot."

Prior to his arrival on campus, Blankenship suffered a broken foot that kept him out for the majority of the season. He was relegated to the scout team when he returned to action, forced to simply read plays from a note card and then execute them.

Three-quarters of a year later, Blankenship is still suffering the effects of the injury. He continues to undergo rehab for both his foot and his legs, attempting to strengthen the entire region.

Like most athletes recovering from an injury, Blankenship said he still has his good days and his bad ones.

"I feel like I'm 100 percent healthy," he said. "They're going to have days where my foot's not going to feel very well. Some days I'll wake up in the morning and it'll still be a pain, just a nagging pain. I feel like I'm ready. It's gone a whole lot better than it used to be."

When available last season, Blankenship lined up at offensive guard in practice – the position he figures to stick with this season. However, he said he has had conversations with offensive line coach Jim Bollman about sliding to the right tackle spot vacated by Kirk Barton's graduation.

If he sticks at guard – the position he prefers to play – Blankenship could have a better chance to shine this spring. OSU's two returning starting guards in Steve Rehring and Ben Person are nursing injuries that are expected to keep them out of spring drills.

Blankenship figures to fit into that picture somewhere. The question is which players he will have to pass to get into the lineup. At his first press conference of the spring, head coach Jim Tressel said the Buckeyes No. 6 offensive lineman last season was Bryant Browning, who was then followed by Connor Smith and walk-on Andrew Moses.

Both Browning and Smith saw time on the team's kicking units – a role Blankenship said he hopes to hold down this year.

"They've really been improving and they're going to get a lot of playing time this year," Blankenship said. "Both of them are great players. I definitely think they'll get a lot of playing time this year as well."

In addition, OSU will have both Jon Skinner and Kyle Mitchum back after each suffered significant injuries that forced Skinner to miss the entire season and Mitchum to miss most of it.

Where any of them fit along the line is anyone's guess, Tressel said.

"It's hard to get a read from Coach (Jim) Bollman as to who's doing what when," he said. "Tomorrow this guy is playing guard and this guy is playing tackle and he's just trying to figure out who can play."

As a result, the addition of freshmen Mike Adams and J.B. Shugarts – both of whom are projected to be tackles – could still have an effect on Blankenship if he remains at guard. In addition, freshman Michael Brewster figures to play center but is rehabbing a shoulder injury and will not play during the spring. Still, Tressel is counting on him to be a guy who, at the very least, is able to provide further depth for the Buckeyes.

"We'd like to think that we're going to have more depth on the offensive line because Evan was a guy that came in with a broken foot," he said. "He didn't get to play and didn't get to practice as much, and then as soon as he's ready he's reading cards and just going from there."

Regardless of which players he finds himself battling with at whichever position the coaching staff likes him best, Blankenship said he is simply looking for a chance to compete.

"The guys coming in, they're great players and everybody's going to be competing but there's always going to be that pressure for everybody, not just myself," he said. "Anything could happen, really."


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