Ohio State's 2017 recruiting class was absolutely loaded.
Almost inarguably the best recruiting class in Buckeye football history, the group featured five five-star recruits, 10 players rated in the top three at their respective positions, 12 players rated in the top 100, and had an all-time record .9459 average recruit rating.
It was an impressive group, filled with star power from all across the country. But in a national recruiting class filled with top-rated players and blue-chip recruits, it may be one of the last, most under-recruited and lowest-rated local players in the class that earns a starting spot first.
"He's going to be a very good player here. He's very consistent, one of our more consistent offensive linemen."– Urban Meyer
Thayer Munford was the final commitment in Ohio State's 2017 class, and one of the lowest-rated players of the bunch. A four-star and the No. 285 player in the class, the only two Buckeye signees rated lower than him were three-star receiver Ellijah Gardiner, who was a late addition after a late decommitment from four-star Tyjon Lindsey, and three-star kicker Blake Haubeil, who was still a top-five player at his position.
Even just among the offensive linemen, Munford was the lowest rated by quite a large margin. The Buckeye signed the nation's top-two interior linemen – both of which had the size to play outside if needed. Five-star Wyatt Davis was the No. 1 offensive guard in the country and No. 25 player overall while four-star Josh Myers was the nation's No. 2 guard.
Munford joined a class full of top prospects, then a team full of more top prospects with even more experience.
Still, it was Munford who earned the No. 2 right tackle spot last year. It was Munford who played meaningful snaps during the Michigan game. And now it's Munford who Urban Meyer has penciled in as a starter towards the beginning of spring practices.
"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."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.'"
Since then, Munford has turned heads. He's said the coaches have told him they want him to be the starting right tackle this upcoming season, and Meyer has already praised him a number of times when he's met with the media.
"He's going to be a very good player here," Meyer said on Monday. "He's very consistent, one of our more consistent offensive linemen."
The road hasn't been easy for Munford, even aside from being one of the lowest-rated players in the class. He grew up in a crime-ridden neighborhood, without a consistent father figure and struggled with academic issues throughout high school. But he fought through it all, ultimately earning a scholarship, and he seems to be on track to earn a starting job.
For Munford, Ohio State is more than just a football program and he's earning more than just a starting spot – it's a way out of a bad spot, and bad life circumstances he was born into.
"I don't want to get emotional about saving someone's life, but this has been good for Thayer now to be in this kind of structure," Meyer said. "He's an awesome guy, awesome guy."
Munford mentioned to reporters that he sees this as an opportunity to save his family, and that's part of what drives him every day.
"That's a bold statement, isn't it?" Meyer said. "Well, God bless him, if that's one of his focuses, you can see it every day. He's doing a hell of a job."
Still, Munford knows the job isn't quite done yet. He knows the team has to play the best player that gives them the best chance to win, and he's fighting like hell to make sure that player is him.
"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.
"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."