With Jack Mewhort, Taylor Decker and Jamarco Jones each manning the position for two seasons, left tackle has been a consistent position of strength for Ohio State in Urban Meyer’s first six seasons in Columbus.
With the talent the Buckeyes currently have on the roster and their recent efforts on the recruiting trail, the left tackle position – and for that matter, the offensive tackle position as a whole – looks poised to be a continued strength, and perhaps even better, in the years to come.
Ohio State is entering the 2018 season with some real uncertainty at the position, as true sophomore Thayer Munford – with only 148 career snaps under his belt – is poised to take over as the Buckeyes’ new starting left tackle. At this point, Munford’s ability to play left tackle in meaningful games at the collegiate level remains unseen, making the position one of Ohio State’s biggest question marks going into this fall.
But the fact that Munford has already ascended into that role, coupled with the offensive tackles the Buckeyes have already recruited in the classes behind him, give Ohio State and its fans real reason to be optimistic about the players they could have at the position over the next two to five years.
Few expected when Munford arrived at Ohio State last summer that he would be in line to start at a premier position on the Buckeyes’ offensive line just one year later. The second-lowest-rated position player in Ohio State’s 2017 recruiting class, Munford was largely viewed as a long-term project.
Yet Munford drew as much praise from his coaches and teammates as just about any player on Ohio State’s roster this past spring, and the Buckeyes placed a huge vote of confidence in him by penciling him in as Dwayne Haskins’ blindside pass protector before fall camp even begins. So even though Munford didn’t come to Ohio State as a highly touted prospect, there’s reason to believe he’s a star in the making.
Ohio State’s likely next two left tackles after Munford, however, won’t catch anyone by surprise.
As the No. 7 overall prospect in the recruiting class of 2018, Nicholas Petit-Frere projects as Ohio State’s left tackle of the future. While he probably won’t play much this season, as he just arrived on campus this summer and still needs to bulk up for the collegiate level, it will come as a surprise if the long, athletic lineman from Tampa, Florida isn’t starting on the Buckeyes’ blind side within two or three years.
That could potentially mean Munford, even if he plays well this year, moving over to the right side to replace Isaiah Prince – who is entering his final year of eligibility – if Petit-Frere is ready to start next year. While Munford is a bigger tackle, Petit-Frere has exceptionally quick feet for a tackle, while could ultimately make Petit-Frere a better fit on the left side and Munford a better fit on the right side long-term.
Either way, Petit-Frere and Munford have the potential to be a tremendous pair of bookends for Ohio State in 2019 and/or 2020.
Assuming Petit-Frere eventually assumes the left tackle role, the Buckeyes could end up having two top-10 overall recruits at the position in a row.
That became a very real possibility on Thursday night, when Cincinnati St. Xavier tackle Paris Johnson Jr. – currently ranked as the No. 8 overall recruit for the class of 2020 – announced his commitment to stay in-state and become a Buckeye.
Like Petit-Frere, Johnson will carry expectations of becoming a star left tackle from the moment he steps on campus. And Johnson might actually be more ready to contribute immediately when he arrives at Ohio State, considering that the 16-year-old is already 6-foot-7 and 285 pounds (Petit-Frere, by comparison, was 6-6, 272 coming out of high school, according to 247Sports).
Given that, it’s possible that Johnson could team up with Petit-Frere to give the Buckeyes a five-star pair of bookend tackles in 2020, 2021 and/or 2022 – though it’s probably more likely that Petit-Frere will be a candidate to leave early for the NFL than a five-year Buckeye.
Munford, Petit-Frere and Johnson are reason enough to be excited about what the Buckeyes could have at offensive tackle over the next half-decade, but they’re not the only young or incoming tackles with the potential to make a big impact in Columbus over the next several years.
Max Wray, a four-star recruit who enrolled in January, will likely be a candidate to earn the starting right tackle job whenever that next comes open. Jake Wray, Max’s younger brother, is a similarly talented tackle who, like Johnson, has already committed to be part of the Buckeyes’ class of 2020. The Buckeyes also have two four-star tackle commitments for the class of 2019 in West Virginia product Doug Nester and Mentor, Ohio product Ryan Jacoby, and they’re still targeting another five-star tackle for that class in Darnell Wright, also a West Virginia product.
Not all of those players will go on to become impact players for the Buckeyes; that’s the reality of recruiting, especially on the offensive line, where opportunities to earn significant playing time are typically limited. Depending on how things shake out, some of those players could also eventually end up at guard if more playing time opportunities open up there.
All together, though, Ohio State appears well on its way to building one of its strongest talent pools at the offensive tackle position ever – perhaps reaching its peak in 2020, when Munford, Petit-Frere and Johnson, along with all the others listed above, could all be on the roster together.
For the immediate term, the Buckeyes’ primary concern at the offensive tackle position is to make sure they adequately replace Jamarco Jones at left tackle, and Munford still has to prove he’s the right man for the job. While Ohio State coach Urban Meyer and offensive line coach Greg Studrawa have both said Munford will go into preseason camp as the first-team left tackle, they are still expecting him to compete for the job this summer, with Joshua Alabi and Branden Bowen being the top candidates to challenge him.
But if Munford – the youngest player of that group, as Alabi and Bowen are both redshirt juniors – can solidify himself in that role and perform as well as expected this season, Ohio State is going to have reason to feel really good about what it has and will soon have at the offensive tackle position.