April 4, 2011

Bucks short on offensive linemen this spring

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - Jim Bollman was perfectly comfortable with Ohio State's numbers on the offensive front following the latest national signing day.

But it is a problem - at least for the spring.

Though the Buckeyes will get three incoming freshman on the offensive line in the fall, Ohio State is left with only 10 bodies throughout spring practice. Jim Tressel admitted that could change the way the Buckeyes do things the next three weeks.

"We've got some new ones coming in for August," Tressel said, "but we'll have only 10 offensive linemen this spring gives and that will give us some challenges."

The Buckeyes missed out on standout offensive line recruit Aundry Walker, who committed to USC late in the process after being considered an Ohio State lean.

Missing out on Walker marked the second-consecutive year Ohio State missed out on a highly touted offensive line prospect on signing day. The year before Seantrel Henderson opted to go to Miami despite having Ohio State under consideration.

With three newcomers not yet enrolled at Ohio State in Brian Bobek, Tony Underwood and Chris Carter, Bollman is left juggling his offensive front through all of spring practice.

In doing so, players will be put in situations often to play at places along the offensive front that differ from their natural positions. Bollman is fine with that, saying the practice at different spots makes the offensive line more versatile.

Ohio State returns three starters on the offensive front in Michael Brewster, Mike Adams, and J.B. Shugarts. Fighting for the two open spots at guard are Jake Mewhort, Marcus Hall, Andrew Norwell and early-enrollee Tommy Brown.

With only eight scholarship offensive linemen participating in spring practice, that leaves Ohio State relying on two walk-ons - Ivan Blackman and Ben St. John - to work in heavy reps during practices and scrimmages.

The low numbers, Tressel said, could have the format Ohio State typically uses in the annual spring game altered. The game will take place at 1:30 p.m. on April 23 in Ohio Stadium.

"Our spring game may be a little different in that I am not sure we could field two teams," Tressel said last Thursday. "We have 10 offensive linemen and we won't know if any of them will have sprained an ankle by the time we get to the spring game, so it may be a little different format.

"Our spring game may be a jersey scrimmage in part because of our number situation."

Ohio State has usually done a "jersey scrimmage" the weekend before the spring game in effort to allow the offense and defense to battle against one another in effort to win the scarlet practice jerseys for the year.

Though Ohio State has split up the squad in the spring game draft each year and played a football game by the rules, Tressel said scrimmaging could give the Buckeyes another opportunity to get better in the spring's final practice, otherwise known as the spring game.

"We have done surveys with our players and one of the things they talked about as to how we could get better in the spring would be to have a more competitive spring game," Tressel said. "Sometimes when you draft up teams and there's mismatches in situations and the coaches say they can only run five plays and play three defenses, it never felt like we got the full use out of that practice No. 15.

"Some of their thoughts were to make it a little more competitive and perhaps have the jersey scrimmage to end the spring."

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


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