LOS ANGELES — Michael Jordan took one for the team this season.
The junior had been a standout left guard in his first two seasons at Ohio State, becoming the first true freshman offensive lineman to start for the Buckeyes since some guy named Orlando Pace.
But fifth-year senior Brady Taylor, the projected center, had a knee injury that eventually required surgery, and younger players weren’t deemed ready. During spring practice, Jordan took some snaps at center just in case. By summer, the case was made. Coaches told Jordan he was needed there.
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He didn’t hesitate to accept the new position.
“I was like, ‘Sure, I'll do it,’ ” he recalled Saturday as Ohio State continued preparations for the Rose Bowl on Tuesday against Washington.
After the game, Jordan will have another decision to make — whether to declare for the NFL draft. He said he hasn’t really thought about it and that his sole focus is on Tuesday.
“Of course, those thoughts seep into your head,” Jordan said. “But to expand it, and to actually make an informed decision, I haven’t gone into taking the process in order to do that.”
What he does know is that he wants to return to his original position if he does come back to Ohio State.
“Most definitely, play guard,” he said.
Incoming coach Ryan Day is on board with that.
“That will be the plan,” Day said.
Josh Myers is the leading candidate to play center next season.
“Josh has really improved this year,” Day said. “That would be a nice move for us, to move Josh to center and then Mike over to guard.”
Jordan said that center did not feel natural to him until midway through the season. At 6 feet 7, Jordan’s height is not ideal for the position. Snaps were an issue at times, particularly against TCU.
“When you try something new, the thing is to persevere and overcome it,” Jordan said. “Our coaches wouldn’t put us in a position if they didn’t think we could do it. You’ve just got to trust the coaches and follow through.”
Jordan did well enough to be named second-team All-Big Ten, a second-team Walter Camp All-American and a third-team All-American by The Associated Press.
“I can't say enough what he did this year to step into that role, somebody his size, and how well he did,” Day said. “You can't say enough about his unselfishness.”
Jordan said he is glad he played center this year, not only because it’s what Ohio State needed but because the switch adds to his versatility and knowledge.
“Playing at center definitely helps at guard or any position you play on the offensive line,” he said. “You have to know everyone’s assignments.”
Most NFL teams have only seven offensive linemen active for games, so versatility is valued.
“If they need a center, they need a guard, I’ll be that guy that can play those positions,” he said.