The perfect center

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- For such a seemingly small number, Ohio State has no shortage of different ways to evaluate what it means.

Its head coach has been thrilled with it, comparing it to a pitcher's no-hitter in baseball, preferring not to jinx it.

A position coach actually thought the total was just a bit lower. Even the guy responsible for the statistic is of two minds, pleasantly surprised with how few mistakes he's made and still bothered that there have been any at all.

The bottom line is that three is the total of errant snaps this season for Buckeyes junior Corey Linsley. And considering his lack of experience as a snapper coming into the season, the importance of his role in starting every play in the spread offense and now the number of games he's played as the offensive line's anchor, Ohio State has plenty of reasons to consider that a magic number.

"Definitely, it had to be that low, and I hoped it would be lower," Linsley said. "But to play in this offense, obviously the snap is the most important thing. That's why Coach [Urban] Meyer always talks about the center being such an important position, because it all starts with the snap.

"I hoped it would be lower, but I knew it had to be this low if I wanted to be the center."

Dating to spring practice, the Buckeyes have been counting on him to be the man right in the middle of the new spread offense. And while there might have been some early snaps that weren't pretty and the transition perhaps never truly felt comfortable for Linsley until after training camp in August, there has been little room for Ohio State to complain since the season opened.

There was one bad delivery in the first game of the season against Miami (Ohio). He was inaccurate with another snap at the start of overtime against Purdue, and Linsley was off the mark again with the Buckeyes in a Wildcat formation at Penn State.

But those are essentially the only blemishes for Linsley. For a team that averages nearly 71 plays per game and relies on him to consistently get them all started, that is a ratio it can obviously live with and perhaps an overlooked aspect of the undefeated run heading into the final two games of the season.

"Watching him in practice, you see a few hundred every day, so you know whether or not you're going to have a lot of issues," offensive line coach Ed Warinner said. "Practice is usually reflective of the games, and that's partly because of how hard he worked in January, February, March, and then after spring ball, practicing on his own out here, practicing with somebody else, another center, another player to snap it to. He worked his tail off.

"Most of it was cleaned up going into spring ball. The first two days of spring, you don't wear full equipment, and it was pretty good. The first day in pads, there were a little bit [of problems] and then after that it's been pretty smooth sailing."

A trip to Wisconsin could provide the roughest water yet for the Buckeyes in their bid for perfection, with everything from a physical defensive line and the best rushing defense in the Big Ten to one of the more hostile crowds in the country, capable of disrupting an offense.

But there was a reason Linsley spent his offseason stacking up hundreds of extra snaps on his own to make sure every rep would be the same when the lights were on and the pressure was at its highest. And while he technically hasn't been perfect, the Buckeyes have been with him at the center of it all.

"He works real hard at his trade," Meyer said. "He takes his job very seriously. That's summer, that's spring ball, that's on his own -- a guy that comes out five minutes every day before practice.

"He's a pro. I love him, and I'm glad he's our center."