Jordan happy with debut on center stage

Tim May
tmay@dispatch.com
Michael Jordan's move to center allowed Ohio State to strengthen its starting five on the offensive line, with Malcolm Pridgeon moving into the left guard spot. [Adam Cairns/Dispatch]

As it turns out, Michael Jordan’s switch to center was a snap.

Making the Ohio State offensive line better was the premise when position coach Greg Studrawa urged Jordan, the starting left guard the past two seasons, to give the position change a try in the summer.

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Malcolm Pridgeon was in on the conversation. His sudden improvement at guard in spring practice left Studrawa and the other coaches thinking they had to get Pridgeon, a former junior-college transfer, and Jordan on the field at the same time.

“During training camp, coach Stud just pulled me and Mike in and said that Michael has the opportunity to start at center and I have the opportunity to start at left guard,” Pridgeon said. “I just wanted to take the opportunity and run with it.”

But first Jordan had to commit to the switch. It turned out he was flattered when Studrawa made the request, especially because Pat Elflein went from guard to center in 2016 and won the Rimington Award, then Billy Price did the same thing last season.

“Ultimately it was my decision to choose; he wasn’t going to force me to do it,” Jordan said. “I ultimately chose to play center.”

What made it appealing, he said, “was just the fact we can have the best five guys out there at all times.”

So what was his previous experience at center?

“Maybe one time in seventh grade, maybe,” he said, laughing.

He dived into the challenge, spending hours in the summer snapping to quarterbacks Dwayne Haskins Jr. and Tate Martell, and to anyone else willing to catch, such as right tackle Isaiah Prince.

Knowing that at 6 feet 7 and 312 pounds he is taller than the average center, Jordan worked on his flexibility, too.

“I took a lot of yoga courses over the summer to help with my stretching,” Jordan said.

He reduced the mechanics of the task, he said, to three elements: Addressing the ball, gripping it, then snapping it. Like a golfer has a tell when he has made a proper swing, Jordan said the indication he has had proper form on the snap is his right forearm hits his inner thigh.

He said he took psychological advice from Price, who told him “don’t think about snapping” and the fact that he’s upside down throwing a 6-yard pass to the quarterback: “ ‘Once you start thinking about it, that’s when you’re going to mess up,’ ” Jordan said Price told him.

Jordan sought tips from the other side, too, picking the brain of defensive tackle Robert Landers in post-practice sessions.

“It’s really more of him getting the defensive mentality, why we do things, to make it easier for him offensively,” Landers said. “And then vice versa.”

Landers said it was obvious from Jordan’s play in a 77-31 win over Oregon State the impact it had on the line.

“So Mike moving to center was a great move — he’s huge,” Landers said. “He’s huge, he’s athletic, he’s strong, he’s aggressive. He really solidified our O-line.”

The next test comes Saturday in the Big Ten opener against Rutgers. But one game in, Jordan felt good about his near flawless debut.

“There’s definitely a lot more room for progress from me,” he said. “But I didn’t think it was too bad for my first time.”

tmay@dispatch.com

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