Third-Year Reset: Max Wray Still Facing Uphill Climb to Earn First Significant Playing Time at Ohio State

By Dan Hope on July 28, 2020 at 8:35 am
Max Wray

As Ohio State’s recruiting class of 2018 enters its pivotal third season in Columbus, we’re taking a look back at each of their first two years as Buckeyes and look ahead at what to expect from them in 2020 and beyond with the Third-Year Reset.

Ohio State will be counting on its class of 2018, which is the highest-rated recruiting class OSU has ever signed, to step up in a big way as it looks to make another run to the College Football Playoff (if there is one) despite the departures of many key players from last season. 

Each of them have now been with the Buckeyes for two years, and by the end of the upcoming season – assuming it happens – all of them will either be on the back end of their Ohio State careers or off to the NFL. So while most of them haven’t played major roles for the Buckeyes yet, the time for them to deliver on their potential is now.

One third-year Buckeye who might not be in line for a bigger role in 2020 is Max Wray. While just about every other member of his recruiting class who’s still on the roster appears to at least have a chance to play a substantial role this season, Wray looks like he could still be on the outside looking in for a spot on the two-deep at offensive tackle because of the talent Ohio State has accumulated at the position.

Nonetheless, that makes this an important year for Wray to make an impression on his coaches and demonstrate he belongs on the field if he’s going to have a chance to earn significant playing time before his time at Ohio State is over.

Before He Became a Buckeye

A top-ranked prospect by his sophomore year at Franklin (Tenn.) High School, Wray initially committed to Georgia in the spring of 2016. At the time, Wray shut down his recruitment and said he wasn’t looking to go anywhere but Athens.

When Wray ultimately decommitted from Georgia one year later, however, Ohio State quickly came calling. A little more than one month after receiving an offer from the Buckeyes, Wray committed to Ohio State in April 2017.

His high school career came to an early end during his senior year, when he and his younger brother Jake – who also became an Ohio State commit at one point before ultimately signing with Colorado – left the Franklin football team due to concerns with the coaching staff. As a junior in 2016, however, Wray earned all-state honors from the Tennessee Sports Writers Association.

Wray was ranked as the No. 121 overall prospect, No. 9 offensive tackle and No. 3 prospect from the state of Tennessee in the class of 2018. He was one of two recruits from Tennessee in the Buckeyes’ class of 2018 along with running back Master Teague III.

Career to Date

As a true freshman in 2018, Wray missed time with an undisclosed injury and redshirted without appearing in a single game.

While Wray was healthy to play last year, he still wasn’t able to earn a spot on the two-deep, as fifth-year senior Joshua Alabi and fellow 2018 signee Nicholas Petit-Frere began the year as the backup offensive tackles behind Thayer Munford and Branden Bowen, while then-freshman Dawand Jones became the backup left tackle for the second half of the season after Alabi suffered an injury.

As a result, Wray still hasn’t played an offensive snap in his Ohio State career, though he did see snaps on the field goal/extra point unit in three games last season against Miami (Ohio), Maryland and Rutgers.

Third-Year Outlook

Even though Wray has been at Ohio State for two years, it appears he has already been supplanted on the offensive tackle depth chart by five-star true freshman Paris Johnson Jr., who saw some first-team reps at right tackle during the Buckeyes’ lone week of spring practice in March.

With Munford back for one more year as the starting left tackle and Petit-Frere, Johnson and Jones all competing for the starting spot at right tackle, those four players are likely to make up Ohio State’s two-deep on the bookends of its line, leaving Wray with an uphill battle again to earn regular playing time as a redshirt sophomore.

As long as Wray remains a third-string offensive tackle on the depth chart, he isn’t going to see much game action. That said, depth will be more important than ever if the Buckeyes play this fall amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which could increase his value to the team and his chances of getting on the field.

Given the recommended guidelines that will require any player who comes in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case to quarantine for two weeks, college football teams will need even more players near the back of the depth chart to be ready to step up at any time this season, and having a highly recruited third-year scholarship player in that position is a nice luxury for Ohio State to have, especially at a position as crucial as offensive tackle.

Max Wray
Max Wray still doesn't have a clear path to playing time this season, but he does provide valuable experience and depth at offensive tackle. 

Beyond 2020

Realistically, Wray enters his third season at Ohio State with a potentially tough decision in front of him if he isn’t able to start making a move up the depth chart this year.

Petit-Frere, Jones and Johnson could all potentially be on Ohio State’s roster for the next three years, and it’s clear that all of them are ahead of Wray right now in the pecking order for starting opportunities at tackle. Regardless of which one of them wins the starting right tackle job for the upcoming season, it’s presumable one of the other two will be Ohio State’s other starting tackle in 2021.

That could leave Wray in a position of having to decide whether to finish out his career at Ohio State and risk being a career backup or explore the possibility of transferring elsewhere for a clearer path to playing time.

A lot can happen in three years, though, so it’s too early to write off Wray yet. He was a top-125 national prospect in his class for a reason, and he has NFL-caliber measurables at 6-foot-7 and 308 pounds.

Ohio State has excellent depth and talent on its offensive line, which means Wray’s place on the depth chart isn’t an indictment of him but rather a reflection of the massive upside that players like Petit-Frere, Johnson and Jones have. Because he has all that talent to compete with, however, it’s also a reality that Wray will need to step up in a big way if he's going to earn a spot in the Buckeyes' starting lineup, even in his junior and senior years.

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