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Buckeyes Buckeye Archive Meet The 2008 Buckeyes: Offensive Line
Written by Dan Wismar

Dan Wismar
It's less than two months until the Ohio State 2008 season opener against Youngstown State on August 30, so it's time to start taking a look at the personnel we'll be seeing on the field this Fall for the Buckeyes. Over the next several weeks, Dan Wismar will run down the position groupings for us, starting with today's summary of the offensive line personnel.  It's less than two months until the Ohio State 2008 season opener against Youngstown State on August 30, so it's time to start taking a look at the personnel we'll be seeing on the field this Fall for the Buckeyes. Over the next several weeks, we'll run down the position groupings, starting with today's summary of the offensive line personnel. 
Offensive Line Coach Jim Bollman welcomes back four of his five starters from the unit that last year paved the way for tailback Chris Wells to rush for over 1609 yards, and allowed only nine sacks of All Big Ten quarterback Todd Boeckman, helping make Boeckman the conference leader in passing efficiency for the 2007 season by a wide margin.  
That 2007 unit had fair depth across the board, but the backups were relatively young and inexperienced, and fortunately the starters were able to stay healthy for the most part. Even in tight games, Coach Tressel usually inserts the second offensive line into the game as a unit at some point, so that second team has some valuable game experience behind them going into 2008. On top of that, the Buckeyes' recruiting machine has produced three Parade All-American offensive linemen in the 2008 class, all of whom are looking to push for early playing time this season. 
That leaves Bollman with an embarrassment of riches in his offensive line group for 2008, and it seems like the starters will be challenged to perform at an even higher level this year, based on all the talent behind them. At the very least, Bollman and Coach Tressel will have the luxury of a very solid ten-man rotation to keep the troops fresh for the long season. 
There are still some question marks in the depth chart among the starters and also among the highly touted freshmen, all due to injuries and some off-season surgeries. Both returning starters at guard, Steve Rehring and Ben Person missed Spring ball with injuries, and incoming freshmen tackle Mike Adams and center/guard Mike Brewster had shoulder problems that prevented their Spring participation. So these projections are speculative to start with, and made more so by the uncertainty in the recovery status of the walking wounded.  
Offensive Tackles: 
Left Tackle
Projected Starter -
Alex Boone - Senior; 6' 8" 312 lbs. (Lakewood, OH) St. Edward H.S. 
There is no uncertainty as to the Buckeyes' starting left tackle in 2008. The story goes that last year following the BCS loss to LSU at the Superdome, juniors Boone, Malcolm Jenkins, James Laurinaitis and Brian Robiskie had an impromptu meeting in the showers, and collectively decided to return together for their senior seasons rather than opt for the NFL a year early. For his part, Boone has no regrets about that wet decision. A Second Team All-Big Ten selection last year, Boone is on most of the All-American teams this preseason, and he can be counted on to be a physical and emotional leader on the field for the Buckeyes in 2008. A notorious jokester and cut-up, Boone made his share of bad judgments early in his college career. But his run-blocking skills are deadly serious, and he has worked hard to improve his pass protection technique to be a complete player. The finished product figures to be a senior leader and a candidate for post-season honors in 2008. He is projected as a preseason First Team All-American by Phil Steele's, Second Team by Lindy's, and Third Team by Athlon's. Boone is a first round draft pick waiting to happen. 
The job of backing up Alex Boone at the left tackle spot will probably fall to one of the two true freshmen, since it now appears that the OSU career of
Jon Skinner is over. The knee injury that cost the senior from Pennsylvania the entire 2007 season has not responded well to treatment, and he will probably call it quits. But it's fair to say that the offensive tackle positions for the Buckeyes are in very capable, if very young hands, with talented guys like Mike Adams as backups. 
Mike Adams - Freshman; 6' 8", 322 lbs. Dublin (OH) Coffman H.S. 
Adams was one of the top-rated offensive tackles in the country as a senior, and committed fairly early to the Buckeyes. He had heard the whispered comparisons to Orlando Pace for a couple of years, but there were still a few doubters around the country. But that was before the Army All-American Game in San Antonio this past winter. Adams' domination of the competition during that week of practices and the game itself removed all doubt about his ability to play at the highest level. He enrolled early at OSU, and showed his stuff to the Buckeye coaches this Spring, convincing them he had a real shot to replace the graduating Kirk Barton at the starting right tackle position opposite Boone. Just a couple of weeks before the Spring Game though, Adams aggravated an old shoulder injury, and it was determined that surgery was the proper course. He is now said to be ahead of schedule in his recovery, and is on target to begin the season at 100%, but it looks as if his insertion into the staring lineup will be more gradual, if it happens at all this season. He looks to be a natural left tackle, and will probably succeed Boone there in 2009 regardless of where he plays this year. And he will be playing.  
Josh Kerr - Sophomore; 6' 5" 276 lbs.  Strongsville (OH) H.S. 
Kerr is a capable backup at either guard or tackle, and got some game action in 2007 as a second-teamer. Kerr is better as a run blocker than in pass protection, but has shown the effort and versatility to gain the confidence of the coaches.  
Right Tackle
Projected Starter -
Bryant Browning - RS Sophomore; 6' 4" 312 lbs.  (Cleveland) Glenville H. S. 
Browning has quietly played his way onto the first team for the Buckeyes at right tackle. He saw quite a bit of action last season, and more than held his own in Big Ten competition. Originally projected by the coaches as an offensive guard, he has shown them that he possesses the combination of strength, footwork and quickness required to play tackle as well, and the injuries to Skinner and Adams have made Browning the logical choice as the best lineman for the job. Tressel has rated Browning as the 6th best offensive lineman on the roster, so he'll be playing somewhere, even if the line gets shuffled around a bit. There has been some discussion about the possibility of moving last year's starting left guard Steve Rehring out to right tackle, with Browning then moving back to guard, but to my knowledge that talk is not coming from the folks who actually decide such things. The coaches may not wish to break up that mammoth wall of Boone (6-8, 312) and Rehring (6-7, 335) together on the left side, escorting Beanie to the edge.  
J.B. Shugarts - Freshman; 6' 8", 310 lbs.   Klein (TX) H.S. 
Shugarts is the other freshman bookend tackle that was rated among the top ten nationally at his position coming in. Although bothered by some minor injuries himself, Shugarts has taken advantage of Adams' absence from Spring ball to mark out his own spot in the two-deep. Before his high school class had graduated this Spring, Shugarts had started for the Scarlet team in the annual Spring Game at OSU, and though he was taken to school once or twice by the Gray pass rushers, he played like he belonged there. J.B. has taken to the weight room with a passion as well, and is turning heads in there with his dedication as well as his strength. The coaches like his nasty streak along with his obvious physical attributes. Coach Bollman has shown that he will give significant playing time to deserving freshmen, as Boone, Rob Sims and Rehring have all started games as freshmen in recent years. Even with a depth chart as crowded and talented as this one, look for this big kid from Texas to contribute right away. 
Andy Miller - RS Sophomore; 6' 6" 279 lbs.  (Washington, PA)  Trinity SHS 
Miller came to OSU as a tight end, and spent most of his first two years in the program there, but began taking reps at tackle last year as the coaches tried to develop more depth at the tackle spots and Miller tried to get closer to some playing time.  
Offensive Guards: 
Left Guard
Projected Starter:
Steve Rehring - RS Senior; 6'7" 335 lbs. (West Chester, OH) Lakota West H.S. 
Rehring is a fifth year senior, who got playing time as a true freshman in 2004, and then sat out the 2005 season with pneumonia. He'll be opening his third straight season as a starter at left guard in 2008, assuming he comes back 100% from his offseason shoulder surgery. Rehring is a real road-grader of a lineman, but has surprisingly good feet for such a huge specimen. He has always battled to contain his weight, having arrived as a freshman at almost 350 lbs, and worked to get down to a playing weight more like what his coaches had in mind. There are some concerns this Spring about his conditioning as well, after the injury rehab, but if he's healthy, the Bucks will have a reliable three-year starter at left guard. Phil Steele's rates him a Third Team preseason All-American, and projects him as a first day pick in the NFL Draft.  
Kyle Mitchum - RS Senior; 6' 3" 291 lbs.  (Erie, PA) McDowell SHS 
Mitchum is another of Coach Tressel's fifth-year seniors, who arrived in 2004 and stuck with the program, battled injuries, and is making a contribution in his last two years as a Buckeye. Mitchum saw significant action at guard last year with the second unit, and will be competing with Connor Smith for playing time behind the two starters at guard.  
Right Guard
Projected Starter:
Ben Person - RS Senior; 6' 3" 323 lbs. Xenia (OH) H.S. 
Person arrived in Columbus in 2004 along with Rehring, Mitchum and Skinner, with perhaps the highest profile of them all coming out of high school. A tackle as a prep player, he has worked mostly at guard for the Buckeyes, and became a starter for the first time in 2007. It took a while for the meaningful playing time to catch up to the expectations for Person. Coming out of a run-oriented wing-T offense at Xenia, he had never done much in the way of drop-step pass blocking or complicated pre-snap reads, which are a big part of Jim Bollman's system at OSU, and it took him time to learn and progress. He had a solid season in 2007 as a first-year starter, and figures to improve with the experience. Person also missed Spring ball due to foot surgery in the offseason, but is back at 100% this month, ready to finish off his Buckeye career with a flourish. 
Connor Smith - RS Sophomore; 6' 4" 310 lbs.  (Cincinnati, OH) Colerain H.S. 
Smith was another highly touted high school player who came in to Ohio State with a resume built around his run-blocking prowess. Colerain's offense was almost exclusively a running program, winning one D-1 state title during Smith's time there, going unbeaten while barely ever throwing the ball. Smith came to OSU in 2006, and took a redshirt year that season, while working on pass protection technique and learning the "big picture" on offense under Coach Bollman. He started to blossom in 2007, and after Browning, was the first Buckeye lineman off Tressel's bench, gaining some important playing time in the trenches all season. Assuming that Browning stays at tackle, Smith would be the third guard, and could back up at either spot.  
Evan Blankenship - RS Freshman; 6' 3" 290 lbs.  (Monaca, PA) Center Area H.S. 
Blankenship was the only offensive lineman in the Buckeyes' small 15-man recruiting class of 2007. He took a redshirt year in '07, due to a foot injury suffered before he arrived on campus. After recovering, he spent the season on the scout team, and he still suffers some after effects from the injury. This year though, the coaches seem to be pleased with his progress. He took advantage of some of the injuries to his teammates at guard this Spring, and performed well in the Spring Game, giving him a chance to see the field sometime in 2008. 
Projected Starter:
Jim Cordle - RS Junior; 6' 4" 297 lbs.  Lancaster (OH) H.S. 
Cordle begins his second year as a starter at center for the Buckeyes this season, and expectations are as high for him as they are for the entire unit. He arrived with Boone in the 2005 recruiting class, and though he enrolled early, he ended up redshirting his freshman year due to a foot injury. Like Smith and Person, Cordle had to adjust to an offensive system less run-oriented than the one he had played in at Lancaster. He also had the chance to observe and learn the center position behind two guys who are currently on NFL rosters; Nick Mangold (2005) and Doug Datish (2006). Cordle is known for being exceptionally quick off the snap, as well as for his intelligence and disciplined mental approach to the game. He is also versatile enough to play guard or tackle in a pinch. He took a few snaps at the tackle spot in the Spring Game, so the coaches must have wanted to see him there in live action. He is projected in several preseason publications as All-Big Ten at center. 
Michael Brewster - Freshman; 6' 5" 296 lbs.  (Orlando, FL) Edgewater H.S. 
Brewster is the third of the celebrated high school offensive linemen to commit in the 2008 class. Rated the top high school center in the country, Brewster committed early to Ohio State, and then set about becoming a legend before ever setting foot on campus as a student. He took the lead in attracting many of the highly-rated prep players who eventually came together as the star-studded class of 2008. He befriended Terrelle Pryor, Mike Adams, Jake Stoneburner and Devier Posey and others months before signing day, and communicated by phone and text with the top recruits on an ongoing basis throughout the recruiting cycle. By signing day, these guys were fast friends. There's a reason the Buckeye class of 2008 is nicknamed "The Brew Crew."  If the same combination of talent, personality and leadership continues into his OSU career, Buckeye fans are in for something special. Brewster enrolled early in January, but missed Spring football with a shoulder injury. He is completely recovered though, and looks to start the season at 100%. Brewster can play guard or center, and is certainly talented enough to earn some early playing time this season. 
Jim Bollman's starters average 6' 5" and 318 lbs, and more importantly, they return nearly intact a unit that went to the BCS title game a year before anyone expected it of them. Phil Steele's CFB Preview rates the Buckeyes OL as the best unit in the Big Ten, and No. 2 in the nation, (behind Oklahoma.) I suspect we'll see the freshmen Brewster, Adams and Shugarts, as well as Connor Smith gaining confidence as the season goes along, giving Coach Tressel more OL depth than he has had in his Ohio State tenure. If Adams or Shugarts looks too good to keep off the field, we might see Browning go inside to guard, displacing or sharing time with Person or Rehring. Nice problems to have for Coach Bollman. 
Next up: Running Backs and Quarterbacks 
2008 OSU Roster (excluding freshmen not yet enrolled) 
Incoming Freshmen -Fall 2008  

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