August 16, 2009

Shugarts ready to bounce back

COLUMBUS - His action may not have been with the first team just yet, but sophomore offensive lineman J.B. Shugarts was back out on the field with his teammates last week when Ohio State opened up fall camp for the 2009 season.

And for a team that has had some issues along the offensive front as of late combined with some losses after last season, the boost Shugarts brought to the Buckeye offensive line in the first week of camp did not go unnoticed.

Shugarts, who came into Ohio State as a very highly touted offensive lineman with classmates Michael Brewster and Mike Adams - otherwise known as the "Block O" - is finally back healthy with the Buckeyes after a injury-plagued season his freshman year.

And his goal is to come in and contribute as soon as possible.

"It wasn't too bad. It's like riding a bike. This is what I love to do and what I have done my whole life," Shugarts said. "Sitting out and being banged out was hard mentally, but physically I got back and better in rehab. Now it feels great to be back on the field."

Missing time could put players behind the eight ball after missing countless amount of reps their teammates got during the missed time, but Shugarts said he is confident he can pick up right where he left off.

"I don't feel like that at all. I feel like I am on the same page with everyone else," Shugarts said. "I went through summer workouts and had good summer workouts and now I am getting back on the field now, I don't feel like I missed a beat. My feet are the same, I am faster, I am stronger. I am up another step from where I was last year."

While his injuries limited his time on the field, Shugarts didn't let that effect his summer workouts and he has been able to trim off some excess weight while adding muscle mass.

"When I checked into camp I was about 312 but I am about 305 now," Shugarts said. "When I got here I had a lot more baby fat and stuff like that, but I have trimmed up a lot and got more muscle mass, so everything has been going pretty good."

Shugarts has been working in at right tackle, and though head coach Jim Tressel said that most spots on the line seem to be close to set - aside from Adams' battle with Andy Miller at left tackle - he could see some considerable time on the field if things fall his way.

With news that left guard Justin Boren sustained an MCL sprain Friday at practice, more things could be shifted along the offensive front while he sits out for the reported 2-3 weeks.

That being said, many believe senior right tackle Jim Cordle could be moved to fill in the vacancy left by the absence of Boren, thus giving more reps to Shugarts, though scenario is purely speculative.

If that isn't the case, however, Tressel did make it clear that anyone who turned heads on the line could also figure into the battle at left tackle.

"I think the way Jim Bollman is starting it now is Mike Adams and Andy Miller are rolling it in with the first two groups, but that doesn't mean if someone looks good at right tackle that they are buried there behind Jim Cordle, a senior," Tressel said. "If the right tackle looks better than the two left tackles, then we still have a little bit of time to look at those kind of things."

One thing the offensive line seems to sport this year is solid depth, which could lead to some kind of rotation during game days to keep players fresh in the trenches. Shugarts said that could be a good possibility, but at the same time the best five could benefit from staying on the field at all times.

"The rotation could help just to have freshman lineman in the game. Sometimes in the game you want to keep that solid five because you pick up things in the game and, you learn what players like to do, so sometimes when you're flipping players in and out it might slow down the offensive some. In some games it may really, really help to have a rotation going."

Though Shugarts is now getting back into the swing of things, he is also concerned with the proper progression of the offensive line as a whole. While he does hope to earn a starting spot, he just wants the unit to be successful.

"Camp's pretty good, the offensive line has been doing good," Shugarts said. "We have been doing extra conditioning every day and getting ready for the season," Shugarts said. "On the field we are picking everything up.

"We definitely have a chip on our shoulder," Shugarts added. "That nastiness is there. We are all young guys, we are eager play, eager to learn. We haven't really been on the field that much, but everyone is trimmed up, everyone is getting faster and everyone is getting stronger."

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