Buckeye Offense Sporting New Look

The hallmark of any good college football program is that it reloads, not rebuilds. If the play of a number of youngsters on the offense is any indication, that's what the Ohio State football team has done. Players like Mike Brewster have helped the Buckeyes deal with injuries and ineffectiveness on the way to a 3-1 record.

It would have taken a lot more than a magic 8-ball, an Ouija board and a trip to the local oracle to predict just what the Ohio State offense would look like after four games of the 2008 season.

The Buckeyes, predicted to contend for a national title thanks to the steady leadership of quarterback Todd Boeckman, the exploits of tailback Chris Wells and the smooth play of senior wideout Brian Robiskie, instead have seen a bit of a youth movement at many offensive spots for one reason or another.

The team's leading rusher is Boom Herron, the top statistical wideout is junior fourth-stringer Ray Small and the quarterback, for all intents and purposes, is true freshman Terrelle Pryor.

Suffice it to say that getting odds on that tandem of occurrences would have been tough luck in Las Vegas before the season.

"That's what college football is all about is just adjusting, moving on," said Jim Cordle, who has seen some upheaval of his own with a move to left guard. "We have injuries and guys have to step up, and the guys have done that."

Indeed, it's been a combination of injury and ineffectiveness that have allowed people like Herron, Pryor and true freshman center Michael Brewster to grab key roles on the team, which is now 3-1 going into the start of Big Ten play against Minnesota.

Their impact was never bigger than in Saturday's game against Troy. Pryor, of course, had one of the best starting debuts for a quarterback in school history, throwing for four touchdowns and looking light years much more polished than the average freshman signal caller. Herron put up 94 yards on 20 carries while getting the lion's share of time in the backfield, and Brewster made his first career start and acquitted himself well.

"I was definitely surprised for the young guys," said defensive end Lawrence Wilson, who watched from the other side of the ball. "I'm proud of them. They always had it in them. They were just inexperienced. Coach got them that experience today, and they stepped up and showed what they can do."

The day had to be extra special for Pryor and Brewster, two players who became good friends during the recruiting process. Brewster figured out by Friday afternoon that he likely would be starting at center with Cordle moving to left guard to replace Steve Rehring, who missed the game and is out indefinitely with a foot injury.

Meanwhile, Pryor, the subject of much speculation during the week given the possibility that he would start after head coach Jim Tressel announced that he and senior Todd Boeckman would split the game reps, found out he was going to get the call early Saturday morning.

"We knew this day was going to come, but we probably didn't think it was going to come in the fourth game, let alone pretty much the whole game," Brewster said. "It's kind of surreal."

Brewster said he was lucky to have Cordle, who started 16 games in a row at center, next to him. The freshman made most of the line calls but learned on Cordle's experience to help him pick up blitzes and make changes if necessary.

"It's good to have Jimmy next to me because he's been here three years and he can see a lot of the stuff," Brewster said. "I saw a couple of blitzes today. The good thing is if I'm concentrated on center he can also look around and look for the blitzes and safeties rolling and stuff, so I really appreciated having him next to me."

Meanwhile, Ohio State barely got anything from Small, who was unheralded coming into the season but continues to lead the team with 14 catches. He played a single offensive play, an end around run that lost a yard.

Herron is now the team's leading rusher in all categories with 48 carries for 212 yards and a touchdown. Pryor sits just behind with 195 carries and a score on 39 carries. Wells, who was projected to be a Heisman Trophy front-runner entering the season, has 111 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries, all in the opening game.

At quarterback, Pryor has staked his claim to the spot with his showing against the Trojans. He boasts a solid passing efficiency rating of 155.1 thanks to 21 completions in 33 attempts for 226 yards, the four touchdowns and one interception. A number of mistakes by Boeckman opened the door for his increased playing time, and the No. 1 high school player in the country in his class has responded.

Brewster said that he and the fellow youngsters have not been resented by any of the veterans on a team with 26 seniors on its opening day roster.

"As long as you just go out there and play hard, they'll respect you," he said. "Nobody here is cocky. Nobody here has big heads. As long as you just keep a level head, the older guys are going to help you out and I definitely appreciate that."

When Pryor, Brewster and classmates J.B. Shugarts, Mike Adams, DeVier Posey and Lamaar Thomas stepped onto the field together for the Buckeyes' third drive of the season against Youngstown State, the thought at the time was that they represented the future of the program. Who knew that many of them would also be the present, as well.


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