- Austin Ward, ESPN Staff Writer
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Approaching the midway point in the countdown, Ohio State drops in with another appearance in the list of the Big Ten's best performers in 2013. Just in case anybody needed a refresher, these rankings only take into account last season, no preseason hype or professional stock is considered in the definitive breakdown of the league's top players.
No. 13: Jack Mewhort, LT, Ohio State
Previous ranking: No. 19
Making the case for Mewhort: Given the depth and experience of Ohio State's veteran group of offensive linemen and what each brought to the table, just picking one of them to honor is a challenge -- and maybe a bit unfair.
But Mewhort's contributions as the blood-and-guts leader and unofficial team spokesman help separate him from the other three seniors who collaborated on the best offensive line in the conference. He was obviously no slouch on the field at such a critical position up front.
Mewhort was solid and consistent in protecting quarterback Braxton Miller, but it was the nastiness and physical presence that he brought as a run blocker that really shined during his final season with the program. Mewhort obviously wasn't working alone, but he set the tone for a ground game that was the class of the league, averaging more than 300 yards per game as the line blew open holes for Miller and running back Carlos Hyde.
His incredible value to the Buckeyes was actually proven most when a knee injury slowed him down and sent Mewhort to the sideline against Illinois in November, as an offense that was effortlessly racking up points was derailed when he was forced out of the lineup. The Buckeyes had raced to 28 unanswered points when Mewhort was removed for precautionary measures, but after struggling through a handful of three-and-outs as the Illini climbed back into the game, they eventually had to put him back on the field to right the ship and pull away for another easy victory.
That was just a taste of how difficult Mewhort will be to replace for Ohio State. Next time the Buckeyes won't have the option of simply plugging one of the Big Ten's best players right back into the mix.
10hMitch Sherman and Josh Moyer
4dDan Murphy and Mitch Sherman