Healthy Shugarts Ready To Contribute

When Ohio State landed a verbal commitment from five-star offensive tackle prospect J.B. Shugarts, fans of the Buckeyes immediately penciled him in as an impact player for years to come. After a freshman season cut short by injury, Shugarts is ready to show fans what he is capable of this time around.

On his right wrist, J.B. Shugarts wore what looked to be a hand-made bracelet. A gift from a family summer vacation to Aruba, the bracelet came from and was blessed by a priest along with wishes of luck for the 2009 season.

Although the gift was surely appreciated, the hope of the sophomore offensive lineman at Ohio State is that he needs no such luck to make an impact on the field for the Buckeyes this fall.

"My goal this year is to start, to get on the field as much as I can to help this team as we want to contend for a Big Ten championship and ultimately a national title," he told BuckeyeSports.com shortly before fall camp began. "I've got to go into camp healthy and hopefully win a spot in camp and get everything rolling."

After an injury-plagued freshman season that limited him to just seven games and 26 minutes' worth of game action, Shugarts said he is excited for his chance to earn significant playing time this season.

A native of Klein, Texas, Shugarts arrived in Columbus as a five-star prospect and the No. 7 offensive tackle in the country as judged by Scout.com. He cracked the lineup in the first game of the season and played for 10 minutes against Youngstown State. He also earned six minutes against USC as injuries forced a re-shuffling of the offensive line and acquitted himself well on a national stage.

But three games later, a shoulder injury struck and limited him to three minutes in the final eight games of the season. After also sitting out for spring football as a precaution, Shugarts is ready to go for fall camp.

Now the question is where he will fit into the lineup. OSU head coach Jim Tressel said the offensive line is mostly settled save for the left tackle spot, where Andy Miller and Mike Adams continue to battle for the right to be the man there.

During an August 11th practice that was open to the media, Shugarts was working with the second-team line at the right tackle spot. That does not mean he is only looking to make an impact on that side of the line, however.

"I can play both sides," he said. "I don't have a problem with it. It helps give you a better chance to get on the field, being able to flip to both sides. I'm working on that. I talked to (offensive line) coach (Jim) Bollman and he told me to start working on left and right, so I'll see where I fit best."

Tressel hinted at potentially moving Shugarts to left tackle if neither Andy Miller nor Mike Adams seizes firm control of the spot.

"I think the way Jim Bollman is starting it now is Mike Adams and Andrew Miller are rolling it in with the first two groups, but that doesn't mean if someone looks good at right tackle that they are buried there behind Jim Cordle," Tressel said. "If the right tackle looks better than the two left tackles, then we still have a little bit of time to do those kind of things."

Shugarts enrolled for winter courses in 2008 and went through spring drills at the right tackle spot. He was listed as the third-team right tackle in the depth chart for the first game of the season.

In the team's third series against Youngstown State, Shugarts made his OSU debut along with five other true freshmen. He was joined on the offensive line by Adams and Michael Brewster: Adams at left tackle, Brewster at center and Shugarts at right tackle.

If he was third on the depth chart at right tackle, that thought did not last long. When left guard Steve Rehring went down with an injury against USC, Shugarts stepped in with the first-team unit at right tackle as Bryant Browning switched from that spot to left guard. It was the second plan of attack, as Andy Miller first filled Rehring's position before Shugarts entered and Browning switched positions.

It was clear that the OSU coaches felt strongly about Shugarts' abilities, but injuries prevented him from making a splash as the season progressed.

"It's hard to find guys that are that big and athletic," Brewster said of Shugarts. "We're excited that he's healthy."

Although it was not the freshman year he had hoped for, Shugarts said he feels prepared for the 2009 season thanks to the experiences he had last season.

"I gained a lot," he said. "I got to get in the big games like USC and see the big-game atmosphere. I played in a lot of the early games in the second half. Just getting in the game and getting a feel for the speed and how things go can only help out a lot more than not playing at all.

"I'm just real excited to get in and start playing with everybody and see how the pieces fit together and see what five guys fit together best on the field. If five guys can play as one, the offensive line can come together and start to really do some good things."


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