As Ohio State prepares to begin spring football on March 2, Eleven Warriors is taking a position-by-position look at how the Buckeyes’ roster stacks up entering the year’s first practices. We wrap up the offense with the offensive line, where Ohio State looks to have one of the best units in the country once again with three returning starters and several potential studs who will compete this spring for a chance to join them in the lineup.
Going into the spring, the offensive line looks like it should be one of Ohio State’s best position groups in 2020, and the Buckeyes have decisions to stay and strong recent recruiting efforts to thank for that.
Ohio State earned one of its biggest wins of the offseason before the offseason even began when Thayer Munford, Josh Myers and Wyatt Davis all confirmed prior to the Fiesta Bowl that they were staying for their fourth years at Ohio State instead of entering the 2020 NFL draft, giving the Buckeyes three experienced offensive linemen who have already proven they can be among the best in the country at their respective positions.
Beyond them, the Buckeyes also have a multitude of promising young talent to fill out the offensive line’s starting lineup and depth chart, including three five-star recruits (in addition to Davis) in Nicholas Petit-Frere, Harry Miller and Paris Johnson Jr.
While the Buckeyes have to replace two seniors from last season, left guard Jonah Jackson and right tackle Branden Bowen, there’s going to be more than enough talent practicing at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center this spring for Ohio State’s offensive line to potentially be even better in 2020 than it was in 2019.
What We Know
Davis, Myers and Munford all probably would have been selected in this year’s NFL draft if they had declared, but they instead chose to stay in Columbus for another run with the Buckeyes. Munford, a true senior, is entering his third season as Ohio State’s starting left tackle, while Myers and Davis, both redshirt juniors, are entering their second year as the Buckeyes’ starting center and right guard.
Ohio State’s only three offensive line signees in the class of 2017, all of them have developed into the players Greg Studrawa and the Buckeyes thought they could be as recruits, and they’ll collectively serve as the Buckeyes’ leaders up front – and probably three of the top leaders on the entire team – in 2020.
Davis already made a case for being college football’s best guard last season, earning first-team honors on multiple All-American teams. Myers, who earned second-team All-Big Ten honors last season, was also dominant in his first year as a starter and is capable of making a Rimington Trophy run in 2020. Munford was plagued by back and ankle injuries that clearly hampered him at times last season, but he still earned second-team All-Big Ten honors, too.
Petit-Frere, who is now entering his redshirt sophomore season, started one game last season in place of Munford at left tackle and also saw playing time as the Buckeyes’ second-team right tackle for a total of 240 offensive snaps in 2019, the most outside of the five regular starters up front.
Miller appeared in 13 games as a true freshman and played 181 snaps, the seventh-most among Ohio State offensive linemen, as the Buckeyes’ second-team center last season.
Other returning offensive linemen who saw playing time as backups last season include Gavin Cupp at right guard (174 snaps), Matthew Jones (114) and Enokk Vimahi (62) at left guard and Dawand Jones (90) at left tackle. Max Wray appeared in three games on special teams while Ryan Jacoby took a redshirt and did not play at all as a true freshman.
The Buckeyes have three new freshman offensive linemen on campus this spring as early enrollees, headlined by Johnson, who was ranked as the No. 1 offensive tackle in the recruiting class of 2020. Four-star interior offensive lineman Luke Wypler and three-star offensive tackle Trey Leroux also arrived in January and will be on the field for spring practices, while the other three offensive linemen in the Buckeyes’ class of 2020 – Grant Toutant, Josh Fryar and Jakob James – will arrive in the summer.
What to Watch For
With Munford, Myers and Davis all locked into the starting lineup, this spring will be all about determining who should start alongside them and developing depth behind them.
Optimally, Studrawa will look for two new starters to separate themselves from the pack this spring so that they can focus on building chemistry as a first-team unit in preseason camp. For the next couple months of practices, though, they’ll likely rotate several players at both open spots on the first-team offensive line to give them a chance to compete and show what they can do.
Petit-Frere is the presumable frontrunner at right tackle, given the playing time he saw at that position last season. He had a chance to win the starting job last year before Bowen ultimately won that competition, and considering that he was a top-10 overall prospect in his recruiting class, it would be a big disappointment if he isn’t a starter in his third year.
His top competition could come from Dawand Jones, who was ranked more than 1,000 spots lower than Petit-Frere was in his recruiting class but made enough of an impression on Studrawa and Ryan Day last season that they opted to burn his redshirt and play him in 10 games. Nicknamed “Big Thanos,” Jones is a physical freak at 6-foot-8 and 360 pounds, and the coaches’ decision not to redshirt him last season was an indicator they believe he could be ready for potentially significant playing time this year.
Johnson is too talented not to get a shot to compete for immediate playing time, so he’s certainly another player to watch this spring. While Petit-Frere was a top-10 overall recruit, too, Johnson already has enough size (6-6, 290) to play at the collegiate level whereas Petit-Frere needed to put on weight before he was ready for substantial playing time. The Buckeyes would probably prefer not to start a true freshman – Michael Jordan is the only true freshman who’s started a full season on the offensive line for Ohio State since Orlando Pace – but Johnson could make them consider it if he performs well out of the gates.
Inside, Miller is the likely frontrunner to fill the other open starting spot on Ohio State’s offensive line, even though that likely means moving to left guard after practicing exclusively at center last season. Although he played only with the backups last year, Day and Studrawa expressed confidence that he would be ready to play with the starters if needed – and that was after just arriving last summer. Now that he’ll going through spring practices in Columbus for the first time, he’ll have a chance to prove he’s ready to be in the lineup.
Other candidates to compete for the left guard job this spring include Cupp, a fifth-year senior who took many of the first-team reps at left guard last spring before Jackson arrived; Matthew Jones, who was ranked as the No. 1 center in the recruiting class of 2018 and was the second-team left guard for most of last season; and Vimahi, who became the second-team left guard after Jones suffered a late-season injury and is another second-year offensive lineman who impressed coaches and teammates with his development as a true freshman.
Wypler, like Miller, comes to Ohio State as one of the top interior offensive linemen in his recruiting class and should have an opportunity to contend for an immediate spot on the two-deep. Ranked as the No. 2 center in the class of 2020, Wypler will be a leading candidate to replace Miller as the second-team center if Miller ends up in the starting lineup.
|No.||Name||Ht.||Wt.||Year||Hometown (High School)|
|50||NATHAN BROCK||6-4||290||RS SR||Powell, Ohio (Olentangy Liberty)|
|52||WYATT DAVIS||6-4||313||RS JR||Bellflower, Calif. (St. John Bosco)|
|55||MATTHEW JONES||6-4||305||RS SO||Brooklyn, N.Y. (Erasmus Hall)|
|59||ZACH STEVENSON||6-3||275||RS FR||Lewis Center, Ohio (Olentangy Orange)|
|60||RYAN SMITH||6-3||270||RS FR||Valley City, Ohio (Buckeye)|
|61||GAVIN CUPP||6-4||308||RS SR||Leipsic, Ohio (Leipsic)|
|64||JACK JAMIESON||6-1||285||RS SO||Lakewood, Ohio (St. Ignatius)|
|66||ENOKK VIMAHI||6-4||270||RS FR||Kahuku, Hawaii (Kahuku)|
|68||RYAN JACOBY||6-5||290||RS FR||Mentor, Ohio (Mentor)|
|69||CHRIS KUHN||6-5||270||RS SO||Sandusky, Ohio (St. Mary Central Catholic)|
|71||JOSH MYERS||6-5||310||RS JR||Miamisburg, Ohio (Miamisburg)|
|74||MAX WRAY||6-6||300||RS SO||Franklin, Tenn. (Franklin)|
|75||THAYER MUNFORD||6-6||310||SR||Cincinnati, Ohio (Massillon Washington)|
|77||HARRY MILLER||6-4||310||SO||Buford, Ga. (Buford)|
|78||NICHOLAS PETIT-FRERE||6-5||295||RS SO||Tampa, Fla. (Berkeley Prep)|
|79||DAWAND JONES||6-8||360||SO||Indianapolis, Ind. (Ben Davis)|
|PARIS JOHNSON JR.||6-6||290||FR||Cincinnati, Ohio (Princeton)|
|TREY LEROUX||6-8||330||FR||Norwalk, Ohio (Norwalk)|
|LUKE WYPLER||6-3||280||FR||Montvale, N.J. (St. Joseph Regional)|
How will the Buckeyes split up reps at each position?
With 14 scholarship offensive linemen plus a handful of walk-ons available for spring practice, Ohio State will have no shortage of bodies to man their first-, second- and third-team offensive lines this spring. In order to properly develop all of those players, though, they’ll have to have a plan for how to rotate players at each position.
Although it’s a given that Munford, Myers and Davis will get the majority of first-team reps at their respective positions, the Buckeyes could opt to give them – particularly Munford given his two years of starting experience and injury history – some days of light work (as they’ve done with established players before) in order to keep them fresh for the fall.
That could also give Ohio State the opportunity to mix more players in with the first-team offensive line and give all of the players who are competing for starting spots more first-team reps rather than only splitting practice snaps with each other.
Will the five-stars separate themselves from the competition?
Ohio State has as many as nine or 10 offensive linemen who could make a case this spring that they are ready to be in the lineup, and that’s a great situation for the Buckeyes to be in from a depth perspective. Ideally, Ohio State would love to have several linemen make it a tough decision to leave them out of the lineup, because that will mean they have players they feel good about stepping in if there are injuries to starters.
Realistically, though, the competitions this spring will likely be determined by whether Petit-Frere and Miller perform up to their five-star hype. Players like Dawand Jones and Matthew Jones are talented enough to make a run at beating them out for those jobs, but spots in the starting five should be Miller and Petit-Frere’s to lose if they’re the caliber of players they’re believed to be.
If both of them have strong springs, they could separate themselves from their competition and solidify Ohio State’s starting offensive line going into the summer. Anyone else will likely need to have a dominant spring to steal one of their starting spots outright.
Could Myers move to guard?
The answer to this question is probably no, but it’s a possibility that hasn’t been ruled out yet. Since Miller spent last season at center and is the leading candidate to become the new starter on the interior offensive line this season, it’s possible that the best option to replace Jackson could be to move Myers – who was initially recruited as a guard and spent his first year there before moving to center – to left guard and have Miller take over in the middle.
Doing that would be a break from precedent for the Buckeyes, though, as they typically prefer experience at center. Myers himself became Ohio State’s first starting center in four years who hadn’t previously started at guard, and the Buckeyes haven’t started a first- or second-year player at center since Mike Brewster became the starting center midway through his freshman year. And Myers has already proven to be a fantastic anchor of the line at center.
Even if Miller moves to left guard for now, it’s likely he’ll move back to center once Myers’ Ohio State career is over, which would keep the Buckeyes from having to play a first-year starter at center in 2021 after Myers leaves after the 2020 season.
Projected Depth Chart
1. Thayer Munford
2. Paris Johnson Jr.
3. Max Wray
1. Harry Miller
2. Matthew Jones
3. Enokk Vimahi
1. Josh Myers
2. Luke Wypler
3. Jack Jamieson
1. Wyatt Davis
2. Gavin Cupp
3. Ryan Jacoby
1. Nicholas Petit-Frere
2. Dawand Jones
3. Trey Leroux
Assuming Miller and Petit-Frere end up winning the left guard and right tackle jobs, the other question for the Buckeyes to answer will be figuring out who else should make up their two-deep.
Johnson will likely spend this season backing up Munford at left tackle while being groomed to succeed him as the starter in 2021, though Dawand Jones could potentially be the first tackle off the bench at both spots since he has a year of experience under his belt.
Matthew Jones, Vimahi, Cupp and Wypler are four strong candidates to fill the three spots on the Buckeyes’ second-team offensive line, and it’s possible Jones could move back to center if Miller moves to left guard, though it’s likely Miller would slide back to center – with Jones, Vimahi or Cupp filling in at left guard – if anything happened to Myers.
Toutant, Fryar and James could also compete for spots on the depth chart when they arrive in the summer, but the three of them and Leroux are all expected to redshirt as freshmen.