While Ohio State’s coaches expect Thayer Munford to be the Buckeyes’ starting right tackle this season, Munford isn’t acting like he’s won the job yet.
Munford, the final member of Ohio State’s 2017 recruiting class, wasn’t expected – at least not by most analysts outside the program – to be among the players who would be major contributors for the Buckeyes by their sophomore seasons. Yet in less than a year since his arrival on campus, Munford has already defied those expectations, seeing playing time as the backup right tackle as a true freshman.
Now, Munford is positioned as the top candidate this spring to take over the starting job at right tackle, with Isaiah Prince making the move across the line to play left tackle.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said on the first day of spring practice that Munford is penciled in as a starter for the Buckeyes, as a result of how well Munford has performed both on the field in practice and in the weight room since his arrival in Columbus last summer.
Munford says he believed when he committed to Ohio State in February 2017 that he would have the opportunity to see the field quickly as a Buckeye. But he knew that he would have to "go get it," as a starting spot wouldn’t be handed to him, so that’s what he’s tried to do.
"Really, I just came in just like everyone else, just like a freshman coming in, don’t know what to do yet, still trying to learn and stuff," Munford said while meeting with the media on Wednesday. "But after that, it was just like, 'Ok. Now I just need to go ball during camp, make sure the coaches see me on film.'"
Munford says he spent extra time studying with offensive line coach Greg Studrawa, as well as with veteran offensive linemen like Billy Price and Jamarco Jones, in order to speed up his learning curve as a freshman. Additionally, Munford said he wasn’t afraid to ask questions during meetings, which he believes showed Ohio State’s coaches that he was someone they could trust.
Munford says he has been told by Ohio State’s coaches that they want him to be the starting right tackle this year. That isn’t changing his mindset this spring, however, as he still feels like he has something to prove every day.
"I’m still fighting for that spot," Munford said. "I’m not going to be done until the (first) game comes. I got to take ownership of going in, watching film, coming in for extra practice, extra lifts to get myself better."
Munford also doesn’t want to let his early success get to his head, as he knows the positive reputation he has earned can be torn down even more quickly than he built it up.
"If you get too big a head, you’ll get really cocky, and you’ll just think you the shit," Munford said.
“I got to take ownership of going in, watching film, coming in for extra practice, extra lifts to get myself better.” – Thayer Munford
Munford has been running as the first-team right tackle in spring practices, while true freshman Max Wray is currently sitting in the second-team right tackle spot that Munford occupied last year. That said, Munford said he also expects to see competition at the right tackle spot from Branden Bowen, who started the first six games of last season at right guard – a position now held by Demetrius Knox – but is continuing to recover from the broken leg that ended his season prematurely.
"That’s what me and him have been told," Munford said. "So me and him are established like, 'We ain’t going to give up on each other.' We will still help each other out, make each other better. Because if one of us goes down, we got to come back in. So that’s our mentality right now."
While Munford has seemingly found the fast track to success since arriving at Ohio State, his path of getting to Ohio State wasn’t an easy one. Growing up without a steady father figure in his life and surrounded by neighborhood crime in Lincoln Heights, Ohio, Munford also battled academic issues – as documented in a 2017 story by Land of 10’s Ben Axelrod – before finding success on the football field at La Salle High School. After transferring to Massillon Washington High School to live with and play for Nate Moore, who had previously coached him at La Salle, he was ruled ineligible for all but four games of his senior season because OHSAA ruled that Moore had violated recruiting bylaws.
Ultimately, Munford overcame all of that adversity and performed well enough on the field to earn a scholarship offer from Ohio State. But while Munford has thrived since arriving in Columbus, he remains motivated by everything he went through along the way.
"I still have that chip on my shoulder," Munford said. "After all the stuff I went through, life for the past few years, there’s nothing better (than) to just have that chip on my shoulder."