Greg Studrawa epitomizes everything about the classic, old-school offensive line coach.
The gruff, hoarse voice that you can hear from a mile away. The ability to convey every single emotion without saying a word. The intense energy when he talks. The gigantic frame that proves he, too, once knocked around defensive linemen and protected quarterbacks. The ever-present goatee. The love of pounding the ball on the ground and playing smashmouth football.
So, as the stereotypical offensive line coach, compliments of his players can sound different coming out of his mouth, including the one Studrawa dished to Wyatt Davis a couple weeks ago.
“If there was somebody and I had my car parked tonight and was walking out of a bar late, I'd be like, 'Wyatt, are you here?' And I'd feel comfortable getting to my car,” Studrawa said during fall camp. “That's how much I think of him.”
Essentially no higher praise can come from Studrawa, a veteran offensive line coach with three decades of experience.
Greg Studrawa on his confidence in Wyatt Davis: If I had my car parked tonight and was walking out of a bar late, Id be like, Wyatt, are you here? And Id feel comfortable getting to my car. pic.twitter.com/gkmjSCCpjE— Colin Hass-Hill (@chasshill) August 8, 2019
The confidence he has in Davis especially matters due to the inexpecience across Ohio State’s offensive line. Only one starting offensive lineman – left tackle Thayer Munford – returns this fall for the Buckeyes. On the interior, they went from having two fifth-year senior guards and a third-year starter at center to rolling out a Rutgers graduate transfer, a right guard with two career starts and a center who has never started a game.
“We actually want people to worry more because it gives us a little fire that we need this year,” Davis said.
Davis might not hear as many of the concerns or worries as he hopes, though, in the couple days before the season kicks off Saturday. Even though the Buckeyes underwent an upheaval up front this offseason, leading to four new starters and a position battle at right tackle that didn’t conclude until Tuesday, a fair bit of optimism about the offensive line has arisen both inside and outside of the program.
Some hopefulness stems from a possible improvement in Munford and the possibility of Jackson solidifying the left guard position. There’s also confidence that the Buckeyes have Branden Bowen, a fifth-year senior, at right tackle after beating out former five-star prospect Nicholas Petit-Frere for the starting spot.
Much of the optimism, though, stems from Davis and Myers, a pair of third-year interior linemen who have started a combined two games – with both starts coming from Davis.
Davis and Myers entered Ohio State in 2017 as the two top-ranked guards in the country. Davis, a five-star prospect and the No. 24 overall prospect, chose to leave California to become a Buckeye. Myers, the No. 53 overall prospect, opted to drive 80 miles east on Interstate 70 to remain in Ohio and play college football for the flagship university in his home state.
Both Myers and Davis were targeted as players who would eventually start, but that didn’t happen immediately.
Neither lineman played a snap as a freshman, and they only played in three early-season blowouts as redshirt freshmen until Demetrius Knox suffered a season-ending foot injury in the regular-season finale against Michigan, pushing Davis into the starting lineup for the Big Ten title game and the Rose Bowl. He more than held his own, and he took that momentum into the spring, laying claim to the starting right guard job.
“He drove a guy downfield six yards the other day and turned around and is (moping),” Studrawa said. “I'm like, 'What's wrong?' 'Coach, I didn't step (correctly).' I mean, that's the kind of guy he is. You just love to coach those kids because they love playing the game of football.”
Studrawa called Davis a fighter, technician and perfectionist.
“For me, I've just been really focusing on just truly trying to become a better student of the game, improving my technique and stuff as well,” Davis said. “The first couple years you get here, you're just worrying about, 'All right, I need to know what I do on this play and how do I react if the defenses runs this blitz.' And now I've gotten a way better understanding of it. Just truly being able to focus on just bettering my technique each day, listing to coach Stud and listening to the teachings he's been giving me and just truly working on getting better.”
Steady improvement landed Davis in the starting lineup to end the 2018 season, and it also cemented Myers as a starter.
As a freshman, Myers didn’t play a single snap, and he only played on the offensive line in garbage time last season. As he progressed as a redshirt freshman in 2018, though, he got to the point where Studrawa said he would have felt confident inserting him into a game if necessary. Myers then secured the starting center job this offseason, becoming so reliable in practices that Ryan Day said this week he sometimes forgets he hasn’t ever started a game.
“I mean, he hasn't played a super competitive snap in a game, other than blowout games.” Bowen said. “But out there, it feels like I have Billy Price back. It feels like I have Mike Jordan there. I don't even know how he did it, but he plays like he has two years of experience already.”
Big shoes, of course, and maybe an unrealistic expectation on a first-year starter.
But the words weren’t said without any thought. Bowen knows Price and Jordan well. He started six games on the interior alongside both of them in 2017.
“That comment means everything to me,” Myers said. “As a center, that's what I'm going for. You can't not know what you're doing as a center, so every day I try and have that confidence and I try and play like I'm a veteran even though I'm not. Because, look at our centers. They're all guards who have moved to center and have been All-American Rimington winners. I was a guard, but I never started. Don't have that in-game experience, so I have to make up with it in play and act like I have.”
Neither Davis nor Myers have more than a small taste of in-game experience.
But that hasn't diminished Ohio State's confidence in them either on the field or, at least in Davis' case, as a late-night bodyguard for Studrawa.