The Ohio State University Buckeyes
Boardman High School
The "perfect center," words that Linsley thought that he would never hear from his head coach two years ago when coach Urban Meyer informed his seldom-used backup offensive guard/tackle that he had to prepare for manning the pivot upon the graduation of three-year starter Michael Brewster.
Hailed by the trainers for his incredible strength, all that Linsley had to show during his first three seasons in the program was sporadic play, mostly in a mop-up role in 16 of the team's first 39 games that he was at the university. Having arrived as a local area product, a lanky 260-pound offensive guard, the last two seasons has seen a remarkable transformation of the Buckeye who was recognized as the best center in the Big Ten Conference with a first-team selection by the league's coaches his senior year.
Still, looking back at that meeting between head coach and player during spring camp in 2012, if someone told Linsley he would be listed as the starting center for the 2013 Ohio State Buckeyes, they probably would have been met with a profound look of disbelief. Today, Linsley is a much different player, person and competitor.
With the confidence of then-new-coach Meyer behind him, the Youngstown, Ohio, native rediscovered a passion for the game and, most importantly, the belief he was capable of competing at the collegiate level. Prior to being named an All-Big Ten first-team pick as a senior, he received league honorable mention for his hard work during his first season in the pivot as a junior.
"Linsley's gone from nobody to the apex of the offense," Meyer said.
What separates Linsley from most men in the middle is his raw power. A daily sight is seeing the center regularly bench pressing at least 500 pounds in the weight room. Strength is the key element to his game, especially having to play in the spread offense that often had the opponent's nose guard and middle linebacker lined up over his head.
Beyond physical strength, a football player must be mentally tough, with a mind-set to overcome adversity and mistakes. Upon entering the starting lineup, he helped the Buckeyes to a Big Ten-best 37.2 points per game and to 242 rushing yards per game (second in the Big Ten and 10th nationally) in 2012. In 2013, Linsley dominated in the middle of the field and the offense was one of the most formidable in the nation. Ohio State's ground game was the key to their success, with their center widening lanes often used by tailback Carlos Hyde and others to generate 4,321 yards and reach the end zone 45 times, leading the Big Ten while placing fifth in the FBS.
Linsley's all-around game also saw him protect the pocket and make better decisions calling blocking assignments up front. OSU had ranked 90th in the nation while allowing 30 sacks during the 2012 undefeated season, but reduced that figure to 22 in 2013. After averaging 423.8 yards per game during his junior season, Linsley led the charge for the Buckeyes to amass 511.9 yards per game during his final campaign.
However, it is not just the strength that makes Linsley a tremendous center, but what the strength allows him to do. "Strength helps me in more ways than just raw power," Linsley said. "It allows me to develop and focus on other areas of the game. Knowing you are all set in the weight room means you can put more time into perfecting your technique."
Linsley served, both literally and figuratively, as the center of the cohesion and fluidity. It was the responsibility of the center to have the offensive line set for each play before snapping the ball. However, Linsley admits it was not clear, even to him, when he would have been able to fulfill his duties as center for the 2013 season after a foot injury sidelined him for all of spring training camp.
He missed the first two games and returned to earn first-team all-Big Ten. Behind his blocking, 20 of OSU's 45 touchdown runs came through the middle of the line.
Linsley was hoping for an invitation to play in the 2014 Senior Bowl. When it did not come, he decided to spend the time in the training room preparing for the NFL Scouting Combine. A left hamstring strain prevented him from participating in the running drills, but in the weight room, he was one of just nine players in attendance from the group of 335-plus to put up the 225-pound bench press at least (36), further cementing his reputation as one of the strongest players in the 2014 draft class.
Linsley started the final twenty-six games of his Ohio State career at center, spending sixteen games during the course of his first two seasons as a reserve offensive guard and tackle…In two seasons with the first unit, he produced 28 touchdown-resulting blocks and 133 key blocks/knockdowns.
The All-Big Ten Conference first-team pick, Linsley started all 14 games at center, but was limited early in the year recovering from offseason foot surgery that kept him out of all of spring drills and most of fall camp scrimmages…Led a solid, veteran-laden front wall that reduced their totals from thirty quarterbacks sacks allowed in 2012 to 22 during the 2013 schedule…Helped the Buckeyes lead the league and rank third in the nation with 4,321 yards (308.6 ypg) and 45 touchdowns rushing…The Buckeyes also led the conference and ranked third nationally in scoring (45.5 ppg) and also finished seventh in the FBS in total offense (511.9 ypg)…Called the team's "apex" by the coaching staff, Linsley had the responsibility of handling all line of scrimmage play calls, adjustments and snaps...One of eight players chosen by teammates to represent the team as game captains in 2013…Additionally, Ohio State averaged an all-time program high 6.8 yards per carry and the offense was fourth nationally in red zone percentage (60 of 63; .952).
Linsley shifted to center, starting all 12 games, despite playing with a painful foot injury that would require surgery to repair after the season…Named honorable mention All-Big Ten Conference by both the league's coaches and media...Despite the pain in his foot, he helped lead the Buckeyes' offense to a Big Ten-best 37.2 points per game and to 242.2 rushing yards per game (second in the Big Ten and tenth nationally)...The team also scored a team 34-year best 37 rushing touchdowns, topping that total with 45 scoring runs the next season…OSU scored 446 points and racked up 5,085 yards in total offense, an average of 423.8 yards per game.
Linsley appeared in 10 games as a reserve at both guard and tackle positions, sitting out just the Akron, Toledo and Michigan contests….Had added 20 pounds of muscle to his frame prior to the season opener, playing his sophomore campaign at 310.
Linsley appeared in six games as a reserve center and right guard, as the 290-pound blocker appeared in the Marshall, Eastern Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Penn State contests.
Linsley enrolled at Ohio State, but spent the season bulking up after reporting at 270 pounds…Performed with the scout team at right offensive guard.
2012 Season…Played all season with a painful foot injury that would require surgery after the season…Did not participate in either of the 2013 preseason camps to continue with his rehabilitation.
5.24 in the 40-yard dash…1.81 10-yard dash…2.99 20-yard dash…4.73 20-yard shuttle…7.96 three-cone drill…28-inch vertical jump…8'-3" broad jump…Bench pressed 225 pounds 36 times…32-inch arm length…9 7/8-inch hands…75 7/8-inch wingspan.