Bank Talks With Bucks: J.B. Shugarts

When five-star recruit J.B. Shugarts signed with Ohio State it was a sign that the Buckeyes had dramatically upgraded their fortunes on the offensive line. Shugarts, who played as a true freshman in a backup role, is poised to have a breakout season in 2009. Bill Greene spoke with Shugarts at Media Day and filed this report.

One of the pressing questions surrounding the 2009 Ohio State Buckeyes is the development of the offensive line. Sophomore J.B. Shugarts is part of a group of players fighting to earn playing time with this important unit. He spoke with Bill Greene during the team's photo day, before Shugarts started rotating at first-team left tackle.

Greene: Where are you at right now on the depth chart?

Shugarts: "Right now, I'm running second team at right tackle, behind Jimmy Cordle. I'm feeling pretty good about that since I sat out spring ball with my shoulder injury. I feel like I'm getting better each day and I think the coaches are seeing it that way. It just feels great to be back out on the field again. My strength is good and I feel like I'm moving my feet really well. I think I'm quicker than I was last year and that helps me handle the speed rushers coming from the outside. I'm also throwing people around pretty good on the line of scrimmage in the running game. I'm pretty excited about how I'm improving and I'm hoping to get a shot at starting somewhere on the line."

Greene: What is your height and weight right now?

Shugarts: "I am 6-foot-8 and I weigh 308 pounds. I don't have a specific weight target. As long as I can move my feet and still have my strength then I'm good to go. I definitely don't want to get any bigger and I will probably lose weight as camp goes on. I think anywhere between 305 and 310 pounds is best for me. I try to use my long arms to tie people up and then my strength finishes them off. I think I'm right where I need to be to compete, both mentally and physically."

Greene: You seemed to be taking over a starting spot last year after the USC game. A lot of people aren't aware of how many snaps you played against USC. Did you think you were ready to start?

Shugarts: "Against USC I played the last seven minutes of the third quarter, and all of the fourth quarter. I thought I did real well and I felt I was competing for a starting spot. We knew there were going to be changes along the line but we didn't know what direction they were going to go. I probably was ready physically, but I was struggling mentally. This system is hard to pick up as a true freshman and the new guys are seeing that right now. I wasn't able to get all the assignments down, and make the adjustments as well as the veterans could. At that time I was competing real hard for the right tackle spot, but they decided to get Mike [Brewster] in there. I supported the move all the way, even though I was disappointed. Mike is one of my best friends and I was glad it all worked out for him. Then I got injured and that set me back a little."

Greene: How did the injury effect you mentally?

Shugarts: "It really bummed me out, mainly because I'd never had a major injury before. I almost hate to talk about it because I don't dwell in the past. One of the reasons I came back late in the year was that I couldn't handle not being able to play. We were also having a lot of success and I wanted to be a part of it. They wanted me ready to go in against Penn State because they knew they had very quick defensive ends. I'm a good pass blocker off the edge, but I wasn't really ready to go 100 percent, so they never used me, even though I was willing to go out and battle."

Greene: What were you able to do in the spring?

Shugarts: "I couldn't go through contact drills but I felt great. I had shoulder surgery right after the Texas game in January. That was another reason I came back. I wanted to go through bowl practice and I was hoping to get to play against my home-state team. Bowl practice was about 20 sessions and I used that to get the system down mentally. I had a pretty good run in bowl practice and there were times I was running with the ones. They told me I had to be ready to go in if someone went down, so I prepared myself like I was going to start. I really wish I could have played against Texas, because that was always my dream, but it didn't work out. Maybe we will face them again some day."

Greene: You go against Navy in the opener and then the rematch with USC. Is this team physically and mentally ready to compete at that level of competition?

Shugarts: "Right now we need a lot of work. We have a lot of things we need to do before the opener, but mentally and physically we are right where we need to be. We are ready to go. We're ready to take on everybody on the schedule. We had a great summer because we have such great strength coaches and they did a fantastic job getting us ready. Once those games start I know we will be ready to play. Last year we started so slow and we need to make sure that doesn't happen again. I don't think it will."

Greene: The last few appearances on the national stage weren't moments to remember for Ohio State. What is going to be different this year? Can this team run the table and win a national championship?

Shugarts: "That's a great question, to be honest with you. I just feel that, even though it sounds really corny, we have to just take each game one at a time. We need to take each practice and use it to get better. It does no good to talk about beating USC today. Today is the day we need to work on getting better as a football team, and as individual players. That means getting our bodies in super shape. It means getting our minds right to be willing to accept whatever role our coaches have for us.

"Last year the coaches tried to get the team to concentrate on one game at a time, but the USC game was in the front of our minds from the beginning. I think we've learned a big lesson from how we didn't handle things last year. There was just so much hype last year with all the returning starters, and that was a lot to live up to. This year it feels like maybe we're kind of the underdog nationally, even though we are picked to win the conference. We feel like we've got a big chip on our shoulder and we want our respect back nationally. We want everyone to know that Ohio State football stands for something. As a team, we're really excited to get out there and make it happen. The chemistry is really great and all the guys are pulling for one another. If this team just takes the small steps seriously, because every inch counts, there is no reason we can't beat every team on this schedule. I believe that with all my heart."

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