Cordle's Smarts Help Him Excel

One of Jim Cordle's strenghts as an offensive lineman is his intelligence, a good trait for any center to have considering that position is in charge of making the line calls on each play. Cordle breaks down the art of making those decisions while teammates discuss his progression at that crucial role.

One of the truisms revolving around fall football camp is that a player who is in his second year as a starter can expect to improve simply because he has a year of experience under his belt.

While this rule isn't ironclad, it sure makes a lot of sense, and it might be most true at the center spot. The center is the quarterback of the line, charged with making the line calls that determine the protections the offensive line will make on each play. It's not hard to see how a year of doing that job would make one better at it.

That's the situation for Ohio State junior Jim Cordle, who not surprisingly said that he's now well ahead of where he was last year at this time when it comes to that crucial job.

"Oh, I'm a lot more confident," said Cordle, who started all 13 games last year. "I'm just comfortable. It's almost like a veteran quarterback looking at his reads."

A self-assured Cordle is one of the major reasons the Ohio State offensive line is expected to be one of the best in the country. He was a four-star prospect when he committed to Ohio State as part of the class of 2005 and then enrolled early out of Lancaster High School. After missing his first campaign because of a foot injury, he moved up the depth chart in 2006 to become second string behind senior Doug Datish before inheriting the job before last season.

At 6-3, 297 pounds, Cordle isn't exactly small, but he lags behind some offensive linemen when it comes to sheer girth. Instead, he is known as a master of technique and a football buff who knows what's happening on the field at all times.

When discussing how he goes about making his line calls, Cordle makes the nuanced seem easy. According to the center, the No. 1 thing he looks at is the position of the safeties on the field, which can help clue him into blitzes and pass coverages. After that, there are clues all over the field, such as differences in alignment, slight alterations in stances or even the clues in a defender's eyes.

Tough, right? Well, it is – Cordle said it took him three years to get all that down – but it helps having a defense as varied as the Ohio State stop troops in practice every day.

"I just studied in the spring – we all studied – what our defense does and how they try to disguise things," Cordle said. "If you can pick it up, there are all kinds of clues all over the field. If you can get one of those clues, you know what's going on."

Cordle certainly knows what's going on now, but the process of getting everything down was a lengthy one. Left guard Steve Rehring, who is next to Cordle on the line, said there was a bit of a learning curve for him last season.

"Mentally, his game has always been good," Rehring said. "He's known what to do. It's just being assertive enough to know, ‘OK, this is what's going to happen. Let's call it and see what happens. If I mess up, I mess up.' "

Rehring said he first was impressed with the job Cordle was doing making the line calls during the second half of last year's Washington game, during which the Buckeyes put up 30 points and ripped off some big plays. Cordle said the light went on a bit earlier during camp, but there's no arguing that he's eased into the job.

"You get more confident, and then the guys have more confidence in you and it just builds, builds, builds," Cordle said.

Left tackle Alex Boone is now in his fourth year starting for the Buckeyes, and Cordle is Boone's third center after New York Jets first-round draft pick Nick Mangold (2005) and Datish, who currently suits up for the Atlanta Falcons. Boone said Cordle compares favorably to that strong company.

"If I had to rank them in order for line calls, I'd say Nick, Jimmy, Doug," Boone said, adding that Mangold was the by far one of the best linemen with which he's ever played. "He's pretty good. I could tell you that he probably knows the offense as well as (coordinator) Jim Bollman does."

Bollman wouldn't go that far, but he is pleased with the mental acuity of the man leading his line for the 2008 season.

"It's really fun when he knows as much as he does because he's really always thinking, always looking, always trying to make the correct calls and deciphering things, looking at things," Cordle said. "He keeps learning, keeps testing himself all the time. That makes things a lot more fun and a lot easier for me."


Buckeye Sports Top Stories