Brewster Seizing An Opportunity

Ohio State offensive line coach Jim Bollman prefers his starting centers to have plenty of collegiate experience under their belts before seizing a starting role. This year, though, it could be freshman Michael Brewster taking over that role -- with a little help from his predecessor.

Two quarterbacks can be a distraction for a football team trying to forge an identity. Two centers, on the other hand, can be a source of strength.

That's what the Ohio State offensive line discovered during its victory against Troy on Sept. 20. With senior left guard Steve Rehring sidelined due to injury, the Buckeyes toyed with a few alignments before deciding on one.

Freshman Michael Brewster slid into a starting role at the center spot, while junior Jim Cordle moved over to Rehring's vacated left guard spot. Those facts might not be old news by now, but the possibility that this could be more than just a temporary fix is a new development.

Speaking with reporters Sept. 25, OSU head coach Jim Tressel did not say that Rehring would immediately reclaim his starting spot upon his return next week for the Wisconsin game. How the new combination of Cordle and Brewster works this weekend against Minnesota (noon, Big Ten Network) will apparently have some say in the matter.

"We'll have a little more data about that this week as to see what's the best thing and what's the group we're going against," Tressel said. "What's needed and those kinds of things. All decisions are tough. That's the tough part."

Although the freshman did not grade out with a winning performance, the coaching staff was pleased with Brewster's performance against the Trojans. The game marked his first career start, and it came at a position where the OSU coaches value experience above all else.

Brewster was largely aided by Cordle, who had started the team's previous 16 games at center. The two worked as a tandem: Brewster would make the calls, and Cordle would then approve or occasionally elaborate upon them.

"On some plays he's go to make the call and I'd say yes or I would just let him call it," Cordle said. "If I saw a blitz coming then I would call it. It worked really good. It seemed to run better than I maybe thought because he knew as much as he did. I thought maybe we would be confused, but it ran pretty smooth."

It was a situation that could have led to confusion on the line if not handled properly.

"It's good to have Jimmy next to me because he's been here three years and he can see a lot of stuff," Brewster said. "I saw a few blitzes today. The good thing is that if I'm concentrating on center he can look around and look for blitzes. I really appreciate having him next to me."

Asked to compare Brewster's first start at center compared to Cordle's first – which came with the benefit of one redshirt season and another as a backup already under his belt – Cordle said Brewster looked more confident.

Although he has some experience playing the guard position, Cordle said he had to readjust to the blocking schemes – especially considering the fact that the Buckeyes frequently shuffled alignments during the week.

Plus, he was still worried about making the correct call at the line. Still, it was a simpler task than playing center.

"It's definitely easier because you're off the ball and I can get both hands on him right away," he said. "I think it's easier to pass block just because you're of the ball, you can set. A guy's not on your edge right away. And then there's different things as far as far as pulling, which is fun. It's different blocks as opposed to center."

Senior left tackle Alex Boone said he was in favor of the new alignment because it meant that he could better hear the line calls being made due to his proximity to Cordle.

The key moving forward will be for Brewster to continue to learn at a rapid pace. That has not been a problem for him thus far, Tressel said.

"I think Mike Brewster got better as the game went; a long way from being where he's going to be, because he's going to be very good," Tressel said.

The big test will be this weekend, according to Boone.

"I think it's going to be really hard for him this week, especially going against Minnesota," he said. "We've been watching them on film and they look at lot more physical this year. I think he's really going to have to step up his game and show people that he really can play. He's doing a great job."

If he keeps it up, his audition could turn into a full-time gig.

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