All four of them got together last week for one last breakfast.
For four years — five if you count a redshirt year — Jack Mewhort, Corey Linsley, Andrew Norwell and Marcus Hall have been as close as brothers. That’s the way it is with offensive linemen. They are inextricably linked, all pieces of one unit.
For Ohio State the past two years, that offensive line unit was the foundation of the Buckeyes’ 24-2 record under coach Urban Meyer. But now the NFL beckons. Their time in Columbus is ending. So the four linemen met at Hang Over Easy on campus for a final meal before Mewhort headed home to Toledo.
It was not a tearful occasion.
“It was nothing special — just like us,” Linsley said with a chuckle. “We’re not too flashy. Jack said it best: He said that it’s not goodbye, it’s see you later. That’s how we left it. It was a ‘bro-hug’ and then, ‘See you later.’ ”
Their football futures are uncertain. Only Mewhort is a safe bet to be taken in this week’s NFL draft. He is projected as a third-rounder.
Linsley, who played center at Ohio State, is considered a late-round pick. Norwell and Hall probably will have to make an NFL team as a free agent.
“They all have the ability to play in the NFL,” Ohio State offensive line coach Ed Warinner said. “So No. 1, I hope they get that opportunity. No. 2, I hope they get it with a team that needs their skill set, because part of making it to the NFL is getting to the right team where what you’re good at is what they do.”
Given their bond, it’s not surprising that the Buckeyes linemen have one another’s backs when it comes to doubters.
Linsley is considered a strong, tough and smart player. But centers generally don’t go high in the draft. Other than his 36 reps in the bench press at the NFL combine, his measurables don’t dazzle.
“But go watch the film and tell me there’s a better center out there than Corey Linsley,” Mewhort said. “We played in the Big Ten, which is known for its D-linemen. There were a lot of good tackles that Corey had to handle by himself. When we watched film on Sunday, Corey had that guy on his back a lot of the time.”
Norwell is a bruising guard, but scouts have questioned his flexibility and all-around athletic ability.
“Andrew plays with a tenacity that can’t be matched,” Linsley said. “A lot of people think that just from hearing about him that he’s maybe not a ‘knee-bender,’ but I’ve rarely seen him get beat in practice in (pass protection), which is where it hurts you, and that’s going against Johnathan Hankins and Mike Bennett and those type of guys.
“Once he gets on a team, maybe they’ll realize, ‘We might have been wrong about him.’ ”
Warinner called Hall the most improved lineman on the team the past two years. Some might think that his ejection against Michigan would be a red flag, but Warinner said that NFL teams haven’t once asked him about that.
“Marcus is a hell of an athlete,” Linsley said. “He might not be the fastest of the four of us, but he definitely has the best hands and pad level.”
Warinner didn’t want to criticize NFL scouts for undervaluing his former players because he said he doesn’t know enough about other linemen in the draft to judge.
But he believes his players have value that goes beyond the measurable.
“Some of their value is the way they practice and compete and respond to coaching,” Warinner said.
All four of the linemen earned their degrees, as did senior walk-on Ivon Blackman. Linsley graduated in December. The others did so on Sunday.
“I’m as proud of that as the fact we broke all those records and rushed for all those yards and won 24 straight games,” Warinner said. “Football will end someday for all those guys way sooner than they want it to, and they all have a degree from the Ohio State University.
“Find an offensive line that had five seniors with eligibility up and all five of them walked out with a diploma — and that played like that group. It’s either/or: There’s not going to be five diplomas, or there’s not going to be that performance level.
“They were selfless warriors. They put the team first over everything they did. To me, their legacy is that. You have to coach 30 years to get one of those (groups).”
Now they’re all determined to build on it, no matter what happens in the NFL draft.