At left tackle was central Ohio product Mike Adams, protecting quarterback Terrelle Pryor's blind side. Plugging the middle at center was Floridian Michael Brewster, and Texas J.B. Shugarts held down the right tackle spot. After senior Jim Cordle suffered an ankle injury that will keep him out for the next few weeks, the Buckeyes were forced to juggle their offensive line for much of their 38-0 victory against Toledo.
Those three players – now sophomores – were all on the field for the third series of the game on a drive that ended with an interception pitched by Pryor. It was one of a few different combinations OSU head coach Jim Tressel employed against the Rockets, but it was one that felt good for the former five-star recruits.
"We all came here and we all wanted to play and play together," Brewster said. "It's cool that we got to do that today. I'm sure they're still learning. They haven't played too much this season and it's Mike's first game back, so they're just going to get better too."
Of the three, Brewster has had the most game-time experience after taking over a starting role in week four of the 2008 season. Shugarts and Adams each saw limited playing time as true freshman before injuries forced them to the sidelines.
The road back to the field has been rockier for Adams, who was suspended for the first two games of the season for undisclosed reasons. After toiling on the scout team for much of fall camp and the first two weeks of the season, he spelled junior Andy Miller at the left tackle spot for several series during the game.
Adams was not made available for interviews, but both Brewster and Shugarts voiced their support of their teammate.
"I'm sure he's been let down that he couldn't play," Brewster said of Adams. "Now he's trying to work his way back into getting playing time. He was excited today for the game and he was ready to go, so that was good."
"Mike had a great game," Shugarts said. "He's one of my best friends. He was real fired up and ready to play this game. He's been ready all season. He went out and did a great job and stepped up today."
Shugarts has been the primary backup at both left and right tackles this fall, and had been spelling Miller through the first two games. Now he looks to be the starting right tackle for the near future – or longer, if he shows the coaches he can handle the job.
"I was ready step up," Shugarts said. "Jim (Cordle) is a good guy and he was there to help. This is what I came here for. This is my dream. It's what I've been waiting to do for the last two years. I rolled with the punches and got real excited for this game."
As for Brewster, the start was the 13th of his career. Facing a Toledo defense that liked to blitz and bring pressure from different areas, the center said he could tell how far he has come from his first career start.
In all, Brewster said the Rockets blitzed about 75 percent of the time. Tressel said that kind of pressure was beneficial to all the players who saw playing time for the Buckeyes.
"The big thing is they got in there and they had to handle a lot of junk," Tressel said. "There are more different blitzes that Toledo brings, and they had to experience that. So I think that will prove to be a valuable experience."
Given where he was last year, the center said he felt more prepared to face the attack against the Rockets.
"I'm figuring out when this safety is here they're probably coming this way or from this direction," he said. "I really had to use that today. We used a lot of gap slide protection. I had a lot of guys going across my face. I'm thinking, ‘Oh this guy is going here so there's probably a linebacker coming.' I had to be patient like a running back and let guys come to me."
There were some struggles throughout the game, and the offense had one drive stall inside the Toledo 5-yard line that came away with no points when Aaron Pettrey nailed the left upright with his field goal attempt. Still, the offense piled up 522 yards of total offense in the victory.
As for having his classmates in the lineup with him, Shugarts said it brought back a feeling he had not experienced in some time.
"It was a great feeling," he said. "I haven't felt like this since high school, to go out there and really contribute to helping us win, going out and beating these guys."