SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Ohio State freshman offensive lineman Michael Jordan’s choice for the one thing that surprised him during his first year of college football wasn’t really too surprising.
“The only thing that ever took me by surprise was the speed of the game. It was the first practice in spring ball. Everything just moved fast,” the 6-foot, 7-inch, 310-pound left guard said on Thursday at Fiesta Bowl media day.
A lot of freshmen say that. But not many freshmen offensive linemen do what Jordan did this season for the Buckeyes.
Jordan started from Day 1 and never faced a serious challenge for his starting spot. The last Ohio State freshman to start on the offensive line was Hall of Famer Orlando Pace. The only other player to do it on an Urban Meyer-coached team was Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey when he was at Florida.
“It’s a situation where he worked hard and came out as one of the best five. He has an unbelievable maturity level for an 18-year-old,” Ohio State offensive line coach Greg Studrawa said. “I’ve been coaching for a long time and I never had a young guy come in and start at this level. He’s been outstanding.”
Jordan, who is originally from Cincinnati, was playing for Plymouth High School in Canton, Mich., a little over a year ago. He enrolled at Ohio State in January and made a good impression during spring practice.
Studrawa said it was “early in the spring, really quickly in the spring” he noticed what Jordan was doing.
“The first day we put pads on he had a demeanor and toughness about him that was remarkable for a freshman. That’s when I first noticed this kid had a really good chance to start for us,” he said.
All-American center Pat Elflein remembers Jordan’s breakout spring, too.
“During spring football I realized his physicality was unlike freshmen I’d seen play. He was like pushing guys around as a starter would,” Elflein said.
Meyer said talent alone isn’t enough to get most freshmen offensive linemen into the starting lineup. Usually, there has to be a need to get them on the field.
“It shouldn’t happen, honestly. We had some (recruiting) mistakes and injuries,” he said. “On the offensive line if you’re starting as a true freshman something happened some place, some time,” he said.
Clemson will also start a freshman offensive lineman in the Fiesta Bowl, right tackle Sean Pollard. But he didn’t break into the starting lineup until November and it took a couple of somethings happening to get him there when the previous starter Jake Fruhmorgen was injured, then left the team.
Jordan said, “I’m trying to get there, I’m not there yet. In the offseason I’m going to try to get better and stronger.”