March 29, 2011

Pre-Spring Player Outlook: Offensive Tackle



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The Ohio State football team hasn't been in a state of this much uncertainty since the Jim Tressel era began a decade ago.



Not only will the Buckeyes miss their head coach and four of its most key offensive players for the first five games of next season, Tressel's status with the team is currently under review by the NCAA for recently discovered rules violations.




Spring football is less than two weeks away, and while the Buckeyes may seem in a state of flux, the three-week period of practices is key to identifying players that could be ready to make a difference next season.




We begin thinking about personnel on the football team as those practices draw closer by analyzing what we know and what we may expect out of the players in spring football. Next up are the offensive tackles.


  • Mike Adams - A week before the commencement of spring football a year ago, questions regarding whether or not the light would turn on for Adams were prevalent. In his junior season, Adams was perhaps the most improved player on the offensive side of the ball. However, this season the team faces just as much uncertainty about the left tackle position as it did last year. This time it is completely out of Adams' control, as he'll miss the first five games of next season while serving a suspension.



    What we will find out: Judging by what we know now, Adams is the best offensive lineman on the team, particularly after the departures of seniors Bryant Browning and Justin Boren. But as he takes a reserved role in the spring it is still uncertain how he'll react and how the progression of younger players will change things. As of now it is expected that Adams will return as the starting left tackle in game six of next year, but it is important for the senior to remain motivated and to continue to practice the way he did all of last season. How big of a role he'll have in the spring remains to be seen, which is true for all the seniors serving suspensions.



  • J.B. Shugarts - As spring begins Shugarts is the most experienced offensive lineman on the team. Having had a ton of valuable snaps a year ago, Shugarts established himself as the other bookend at right tackle. Unquestionably the most productive season of his career at Ohio State, Shugarts is the shoe-in to continue holding down that spot at right tackle as he continues to grow into one of the more consistent linemen on the team.



    What we will find out: There is no position battle waiting for Shugarts in spring football, but he will have a battle with his body. Last season Shugarts missed some time because he had some troubles with foot pain. Though orthopedics were inserted into his cleats, resulting in big improvement, Shugarts is in a position where he needs to stay healthy. Not only does Jim Bollman need Shugarts on the practice field because of his leadership and experience, which is immensely valuable in spring like this, Ohio State's numbers are down at tackle. Frankly speaking, the Buckeyes need him.



  • Andrew Norwell - Coming into Ohio State as a highly-touted offensive lineman, Norwell proved his worth in limited time last year as a freshman. Gaining most of his snaps as a result of Shugarts' foot pain, Norwell came in and played very well for a freshman. Given the fact that transitioning in the trenches from high school to college is perhaps the toughest thing someone can do, Norwell seems to be on his way to having a bright future for the Buckeyes.



    What we will find out: Looking at Norwell now, he already fits the part of what you'd expect from a Division I offensive tackle. Sporting immense size, Norwell was able to hold his own out there with some very talented Big Ten defensive ends last year. Because he was the first non-starting offensive tackle onto the field last season in relief of Shugarts last year, he figures to be the natural replacement for Adams as he serves his suspension. How he reacts with first team reps at the beginning of spring will tell the whole story.



  • Marcus Hall - If how Hall played two years ago is any indication of how good he is going to be in the future, that would be good news for Ohio State. However, the offensive tackle missed all of last season after deciding to take a redshirt to make sure he stayed on top of his academics. Though he missed all of last year's games, he continued to practice with the team and improved his grades dramatically. He hopes to be an instant impact this year.



    What we will find out: Hall is listed on this list at tackle because that was the position he played as a freshman. And he played it well. But because Hall is considered to be one of the top five offensive linemen on the team, there's little to no chance that he stays as a reserve tackle this season. With the departures of both senior guards, Hall will likely move inside to play one of those positions. Hall showed he was incredibly talented two years ago and should be a huge boost for Ohio State in his redshirt sophomore year. How he performs in spring now that playing time is a possibility will be entertaining to see.



  • Tommy Brown - History has shown that enrolling in spring practice is incredibly beneficial to incoming freshman and Brown, an offensive tackle out of Akron (Ohio) Firestone, will be a part of the Buckeyes' spring drills in his first year. Brown is a raw talent that could be a tad heavy. However, he's shown in drills that he's quicker than you'd expect from a man of his size.



    What we will find out: It seems as if Brown is going to be a sure-fire redshirt candidate in his freshman season, but it is impossible to ever truly know. And with Ohio State's low numbers on the offensive line, Brown can use his early start to assert himself as someone that could compete. This spring will be a great time for Brown to get into optimal shape and get noticed before the other freshmen come in the fall.



    Ari Wasserman is a staff writer for BuckeyeGrove.com. He can be reached at Ari@BuckeyeGrove.com.









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