Nothing’s official quite yet.
Next week, with just days separating him from Ohio State’s Oct. 24 season opener against Nebraska, head coach Ryan Day plans to sit down with offensive line coach Greg Studrawa to set the five-man starting lineup. Together, they’ll determine who else could get meaningful reps up front in the season’s first game.
But as of now, redshirt sophomore Nicholas Petit-Frere has the edge on freshman Paris Johnson and sophomore Dawand Jones to start at right tackle.
“I would say that Nick, right now, is taking most of the reps with the ones,” Day said on Tuesday afternoon. “He looks really strong. Has had a really good camp.”
Day said he anticipates both Petit-Frere and Johnson playing meaningful snaps at right tackle this season, saying “they’re both doing great.”
But based on his Tuesday comments, it would be a surprise to see anybody other than Petit-Frere open the season at right tackle. Day went out of his way to sound as optimistic as ever before about what Petit-Frere will be able to accomplish this season.
“I would say that I'm very impressed with the way Nick had an unbelievable offseason,” Day said. “He's had a really good preseason and I think he's going to have a heck of a year.”
Right tackle, for the duration of the offseason, has been the only contentious position battle on the offensive line.
Left tackle Thayer Munford, center Josh Myers and right guard Wyatt Davis returned as multi-year starters to once again man their respective positions. Ohio State had an opening at left guard once Jonah Jackson graduated, but sophomore Harry Miller – a one-time five-star recruit who played 181 snaps last year and has earned constant praise since enrolling – entered the offseason as the expected starter. He has appeared to secure the job with relative ease despite competition from Matthew Jones, Gavin Cupp, Enokk Vimahi and Ryan Jacoby.
The potential of several underclassmen made right tackle a more open competition.
Petit-Frere, a third-year tackle, started once and played 240 snaps in 2019 – the most among backup linemen – to put himself in position to potentially start this season. Behind what he described last year as an 8,000-calorie diet, the 6-foot-5 lineman struggled at times to put on the necessary weight but is now listed at a solid 310 pounds.
“Really did a great job of getting his weight where it needs to be, so very happy with where he's at,” Day said of Petit-Frere on his radio show a few weeks ago.
So happy, in fact, that Petit-Frere will likely start at right tackle.
Johnson, who lost his black stripe a week ago, always faced an uphill battle to earn a starting job considering only two true freshman offensive linemen – Orlando Pace and Michael Jordan – have ever started a season opener for the Buckeyes. However, he publicly pined for the chance, telling Eleven Warriors in December that “I can be the third (freshman lineman)” to start.
He seems likely to begin the season as a backup, but Day made clear on Tuesday that he anticipates working Johnson into the mix somehow.
“Paris, for a young guy, is very mature, very serious about his work and is very, very talented,” Day said on his Sept. 24 radio show.
Jones, a gargantuan 6-foot-8, 360-pound second-year lineman, was vying for the right tackle opening early on but appeared to be an underdog in the competition. With Petit-Frere repping mainly with the first-team offense at right tackle and Johnson working in, Ohio State has looked to get Jones some work elsewhere.
He repped at left tackle when the media watched the Buckeyes practice in March and has spent some time at guard in the preseason.
“We’ve moved him around a little bit, and he’s somebody we hope can play and get on the field for us this year,” Day said two weeks ago.
Both Jones and Johnson might have to find their snaps outside of the starting five, which appears just about set.
Day hasn’t wanted to let the public know too much of his team’s plans. He has largely hesitated when asked questions about Ohio State’s depth chart. But given Petit-Frere’s first-team reps, as long as nothing changes unexpectedly, the Buckeyes' starting offensive line appears to be set.