COLUMBUS, OHIO (AP) - If underclassmen really do learn how to act by mimicking the veteran players, then the Ohio State Buckeyes are in pretty good hands with Mike Brewster in the huddle.
In addition to being the block of granite around which the offense pivots, Brewster is also the team's emotional and spiritual leader.
Consider the 6-foot-5, 305-pounder the go-to guy for the Buckeyes, whether it's telling others how to pick up a weakside blitz or the best way to handle the bad news that has continually blindsided the Ohio State program the past 10 months.
"Brewster's huge," said Buckeyes sophomore tailback Carlos Hyde, who has started all of two games in his career. "He tells me who I'm going to block. He plays a big part out there on the offense.
"When Brewster's out there playing good, then everybody else is playing good."
The big center with the crewcut is also the poster boy for how interim coach Luke Fickell wants the Buckeyes to react in the midst of NCAA suspensions, allegations and investigations.
"Mike's done an unbelievable job of handling it, and understanding the situation," Fickell said, "and what we need to do for this team to be successful."
And now Brewster is headed home. He's from Orlando, Fla., and figures to be in the middle of a lot of critical moments when the 17th-ranked Buckeyes play at Miami on Saturday night.
It's one more opportunity for him to prove to a freshman that there's no need to be wary of that big, hostile crowd at Sun Life Stadium. Or to show those outside the program that he's still proud to wear the uniform and be a Buckeye despite all the recent embarrassments and broadsides.
"After everything we've gone through, it's got to a point now where I feel like nothing can break us," he said this week. "We have gone through so much, we have handled so much, we just keep getting closer (together). At this point, nothing can affect us."
Words like that can sound hollow when they come from someone who hasn't walked the walk.
But Brewster has been a leader since he first came to Ohio State from Edgewater High School, 38 starts ago. He took over the center job on the first unit as a freshman and two years later was a Rimington Trophy finalist. It's no secret that he'll be a prized commodity at the next level, where durable, smart and physical centers can be the linchpin of an NFL offensive line for a decade.
He's already mastered the more cerebral part of his job.
"One of the things we're blessed with is Michael is probably one of the best centers in the country at recognizing the blitz," right tackle J.B. Shugarts said, "and telling us what to do to pick it up."
Right now, Brewster is concentrating on everything working out when he returns to the Sunshine State.
"I have some friends coming to the game, people have been contacting me and saying they are going to be down there," he said, the tone of his voice remaining flat and his expression staying the same. "I'm very excited to get to go home."
Still, the Communications major talks as if he's more worried about Ohio State's typical mob of fans at road games holding up their end of the bargain than about how the Buckeyes play.
"I'm curious to see how many Buckeye fans will be there," he said, "and what the atmosphere will be like."
He's confident without being brash, sure of himself without being cocky.
Those are valuable traits on a young team that was battered by NCAA revelations and is in dire need of a centered, solid spokesman.
"We need to have a good week of practice. We all need to be on the same page, have our checks in, make sure the assignments are clean, kind of get out there for a series and get comfortable and get everything moving in the right direction," he said, going down a mental checklist. "This team has handled itself very well this offseason and even in the first couple of weeks with the stuff we have had to go through.
"So to be honest, I'm not worried about it."
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