Linsley ready to ditch his 'pitch count'

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Another shortened outing was in the books, and Corey Linsley climbed the stairs up to Ohio State’s post-game media room and walked through a short hallway.

Once again, the senior center wasn’t needed for an entire game, though he at least got to work more than the single quarter he was allotted in the season opener the week before.

As he opened the door and headed out for one of his first interview sessions since undergoing foot surgery after spring practice, somebody from behind him asked when he’d finally get a chance to go the distance on a Saturday afternoon again.

“That’s up to the doctors,” a smiling Linsley said. “Thanks for asking.”

If it were up to the veteran lineman, or if it were necessary, there would be no need for the question, and he would already be turning in complete shifts in the heart of the Ohio State offense.

The stinging pain in his foot is gone by now, repaired by the insertion of a screw to address a bone issue that was described as similar to a Lisfranc injury. And while the injury wasn’t quite that serious and Linsley had played through discomfort at the end of last season, the Buckeyes made a decision and a plan months ago that would require some patience both from the coaching staff and the player not to rush him back too quickly to open the season.

Linsley has started both nonconference games, and the Buckeyes have clearly been more productive with him in the lineup than on the sideline. Over 17 plays against Buffalo, Ohio State scored 23 points -- and put up just 17 more over the final three quarters. Last week against San Diego State, the attack rolled up 35 points in the first half before again sticking to its cautious approach down the stretch in a 42-7 win.

Had the score been closer, the rehab plan apparently allowed for Linsley to play as much as needed against the Aztecs. And assuming the doctors agree with his own assessment, the chance to once again finish what Linsley has still been starting is coming on Saturday against Cal.

“The problem is fixed,” Linsley said. “Before it was a sharp pain, like I couldn’t really push off of it and I didn’t really have a lot of strength in my foot. Now it’s just a soreness. I’ve got the strength, I’ve got the stability, and it doesn’t feel like it’s going to break.

“They say it’s kind of hard to get back in the swing of things, but the most difficult part is you see guys working out there and you want to be a part of that. You see guys getting better, you want to be a part of that. ... I trust the plan they’ve got. But you do want to be out there, too.”

The blueprint was designed to have Linsley back to full strength by the time the schedule really started heating up in Big Ten play, and from that perspective Linsley is right on pace.

He was slowed throughout training camp and had to focus largely on mental reps, and there’s always the threat of rust after a long layoff due to injury. But Linsley has still been afforded the chance to chip away in meaningful action through two weeks, the nagging issue in his foot is effectively in the rearview mirror -- and Ohio State has also been able to develop some depth with Jacoby Boren benefitting from the playing time in place of the starter.

“Yeah, [Linsley] wanted to play more in the opener,” offensive line coach Ed Warinner said. “He wanted to play more in the last game, but circumstances were such that we were in a good situation where we didn’t have to do that.

“Everything has progressed there fine, and he’s 100 percent. ... But we also had kind of pitch count for him -- when he got to that number, we got him out of the game. Had we needed to play him more than that in the first two games, we could have.”

Now heading into the third, Linsley and the doctors might finally be ready to ditch the pitch count and turn him loose.