Patience is paramount in the trenches.
On Feb. 7 of 2018, Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes landed the nation's top-rated offensive tackle. Tampa's Nicholas Petit-Frere was listed at 6-foot-6 and 272 pounds and was being courted by all of college football's heavy hitters. Checking in as the class's seventh-best overall prospect, those measurables were actually a bit generous. The five-star weighed shy of 270 pounds when he arrived in Columbus that summer.
It's uncommon for an offensive lineman to carve out a significant role as a true freshman. And if you're someone who believes a five-star prospect should be an immediate impact player regardless of position, then perhaps Petit-Frere was slightly overrated by the recruiting services. He would go on to use an 8,000-calorie diet to pack on the needed pounds to compete along the offensive line. He redshirted in 2018 and then saw action as a backup during his second season.
We're now over three years removed from the day Nicholas Petit-Frere signed with Ohio State over the likes of Notre Dame, Alabama, Florida, and Michigan. He's up to 310 pounds and is heading into his second season as the Buckeyes' starting right tackle. In his first year as a starter, he teamed up with Thayer Munford to form what was likely the nation's top tackle duo. Petit-Frere allowed a quarterback pressure on just .5 percent of his snaps, which was the best rate in the country (Munford was second at .9 percent).
Having both tackles back in 2021 is sure to be a blessing for Ohio State's next signal-caller. The progression of Petit-Frere is also a reminder that sometimes it takes time in the trenches. It's often said that the offensive line is the hardest position to project, but Greg Studrawa and the Buckeyes have done a fine job with recruiting and developing even if the program hasn't landed every single five-star it's set its sights on.
The patience that was shown for the 2018 signee could be worth remembering as Studrawa and Co. are targeting a 2022 lineman with some similar traits. And this one is much closer to home.
It was just last week when the Buckeyes extended an offer for Wayne offensive tackle Aamil Wagner. Rated as a four-star and Ohio's fifth-best prospect, Ryan Day and the staff had been wanting to see Wagner up close and personal before officially entering his recruitment. In-state targets are always handled a bit differently. The pandemic has presented challenges for prospects all across the country, including those that attend high school just about an hour west of Ohio State's campus.
Wagner checks in at 6-foot-6 and about 260 pounds, though his decision to play basketball likely caused that to fluctuate. He plans on bulking up to the 270-280 range for his senior season on the gridiron, and that's certainly something college coaches will be excited about. His film shows a long athletic prospect who looks more like a defensive end than a college-ready tackle. And that's just the thing—he's not a college-ready tackle and doesn't need to be for quite some time.
The Petit-Frere comparisons go beyond just the size. Much like his counterpart, Wagner is an extremely bright kid who has offers to play all over the country. That includes some of the more prestigious academic schools like Northwestern and Stanford. Brian Kelly had the Notre Dame toward the top of the list for Petit-Frere, and Wagner may ultimately see his recruitment coming down to the Buckeyes and Fighting Irish.
The folks in South Bend offered the athletic tackle back in November; nearly four months before Ohio State would follow suit. Sometimes getting in on a kid earlier in the process can make all the difference in the world. This, however, doesn't feel like it's going to be one of those recruitments as Wagner seems set on narrowing his list down and taking a deeper dive into his favorites. The dead period coming to an end would allow him to take some much-needed campus visits and then zero in on a decision. It also wouldn't be a total surprise if some sort of announcement came before things open back up.
Wayne High School has been pretty good to the Buckeyes with Warrior greats like Braxton Miller and Robert Landers making their way to Columbus. Fellow Dayton-area star C.J. Hicks and some of Ryan Day's other commitments are working hard to see that Wagner is next on the list.
Ohio State needs to sign a pair of tackles before next February rolls around, and Aamil Wagner has quickly emerged as one of the top options. It may take some time before he's ready to make an impact at the next level, but the Buckeyes have seen that patience pay off recently with the rise of Nicholas Petit-Frere. Wagner hasn't made a decision just yet, but he already appears to be on a similar path.