As Ohio State continues through its spring practices, the team's offensive coordinator and offensive line coach is trying out a number of combinations across the board while manning an offense that has to replace a number of key figures. Up front, the changeover is even more pronounced, where three starters return but plenty of faces are in the mix at different positions.
Take Jim Cordle for a case in point. After playing at center as a freshman and sophomore for the Buckeyes, Cordle began his junior year at that spot until senior left guard Steve Rehring suffered an injury that knocked him out of the lineup. As Bollman reshuffled the lineup, Cordle slid from center to Rehring's vacated spot while freshman Michael Brewster took over in the middle of the line.
Now, as the Buckeyes are preparing for Cordle's final season, they are doing so by going into the spring without a preference as to where its most experienced lineman will play.
Through four practices this spring, he has lined up at both center and right tackle – the latter of which is an entirely new position for him.
"Right now we've rotated," he said. "We've had four practices and I've been (at) tackle two, center two. It's spring ball and it's what you expect."
Cordle does have some experience as a tackle. He lined up at left tackle during the second half of last year's spring game and said he gained some experience there as a sophomore as well.
Right tackle, however, is another story.
"It's fun to try new things out," he said. "Right tackle is definitely new because I was on the left side last year at guard and center before that. Out there, it's a little different. Our defensive ends are very good. It's definitely something new."
The move to the outside has been undertaken because the coaches are impressed enough with Cordle's speed and athleticism – two attributes not often attached to the OSU offensive line in recent years.
While previewing the spring, OSU head coach Jim Tressel compared Cordle to a former first-team all-Big Ten lineman.
"I think Jim Bollman felt that, for instance, when Doug Datish had one of his best years it was with his quickness at a tackle position," Tressel said. "He feels Jimmy because of his intelligence and footwork can be helpful at all those positions."
As a junior, Datish lined up at left tackle before moving to center as a senior and earning first-team all-conference honors in the process. Cordle said there are similarities between the two, but pointed to one key difference: Datish moved from the outside of the line to the middle, while Cordle might be headed in the opposite direction.
"They liked him at tackle because of his athleticism," Cordle said of Datish. "That's why they started me out at right tackle, just the athleticism part and the quickness and being able to block guys with speed off the edge. But you can't just be athletic; you've got to have the technique down so that's why we're going and (Bryant Browning) can do a great job at right tackle. We'll just see what the best lineup is."
The Buckeyes do return Browning, who served as the starting right tackle for the entire 2008 season but was generally regarded as a weak link on the line. When Cordle is at right tackle, Browning has switched inside to his more-natural spot at right guard.
"Can I play tackle? Sure, but I've got to learn that position, the techniques and everything," Cordle said.
So where will Cordle play? The answer to that question might lie in how well the guys around him perform.
"It's nice to have enough flexibility to literally be able to play all five spots on the offensive line," Bollman said. "I think where he ends up playing may end up with how everyone around him is playing. Exactly where he ends up, I don't have an answer right now."