COLUMBUS: A year ago at this time, Corey Linsley’s future at Ohio State seemed murky at best. He started the season on a two-game suspension, he never really found his place on the offensive line and he was dangerously close to falling into exile permanently.

Now he is the starting center, replacing a departed four-year starter at one of the most important positions in Urban Meyer’s offense. Meyer this week called Linsley one of the most improved players of the offense and has been gushing about his progress since the spring.

“He’s without question the No. 1 most improved guy,” Meyer said. “Gone from nobody to the apex of our offense. I love Corey. I love who he is. I love the seriousness.”

It wasn’t always that way.

Linsley, a Boardman High School product, briefly thought about quitting, about walking off the practice field when Meyer instilled 5 a.m. workouts during the offseason to get the players’ attention. Meyer was irritated that a handful of guys missed team meetings and he didn’t like the physiques of his offensive linemen, calling them “sloppy.” The early morning workouts were the first step in transforming their bodies and their minds.

To his credit, Linsley didn’t dodge blame for disappointing during his first two seasons on the field. He took full responsibility and went to work correcting it.

“I love the fact that he was honest. It wasn’t a blame game,” Meyer said. “He didn’t come and blame the previous coaching staff. He blamed himself for his lack of production.”

Added offensive line coach Ed Warinner: “He’s accepted the new regime, accepted the way that the program is run and really embraced it. He’s totally committed to the turnaround in his life and in terms of the past and moving forward.”

It has been a methodical progression over the past eight months, but Linsley is finally arriving just as the Buckeyes prepare to host the Miami RedHawks on Saturday at Ohio Stadium.

“I really think I made a 180 in my life, on and off the field,” Linsley said. “I feel like I’m rejuvenated.”

He better be. The Buckeyes will play at a frenetic pace on offense, meaning Linsley has to be sharp with his line calls. He predicted the Buckeyes will operate without a huddle 99 percent of the time offensively.

“The way we do things, that center’s got to be a grown man,” Meyer said.

Linsley replaces Mike Brewster, who started all four years and was a Rimington Award finalist in 2010. The Buckeyes have enjoyed great success churning out centers who reached the NFL. While Brewster went undrafted, he remains in camp with the Jacksonville Jaguars and could make the final roster thanks to a plethora of injuries across the line.

Before him were players like LeCharles Bentley, Nick Mangold and Alex Stepanovich, who all had varying degrees of success in the NFL.

Linsley has at least positioned himself for a similar opportunity, which didn’t seem possible 12 months ago.

“I just kind of had an awakening,” he said. “I was at a crossroads in my life. I had to make a decision to make myself a better player and better person or continue down the path I was going down.”

Linsley chose a new path. It will lead him onto the field at the Horseshoe in two days.

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