Greg Studrawa can sleep soundly knowing he has two studs bookending Ohio State’s offensive line. Thayer Munford, who has eyes on becoming college football’s best offensive tackle, will man the blind side spot for the fourth straight year, and returning second-team All-Big Ten honoree Nicholas Petit-Frere will line up opposite the fifth-year senior.
“For us, our tackles set a great example of what it's like to be an impact player and be great at your craft,” Luke Wypler said on Wednesday. “With Nick on one side and Thayer on the other, they're a prime example of what everyone in the room is striving to be. Having them as the pillars, I feel like inside the competition is going great.”
The three spots between Munford and Petit-Frere make up the trio of question marks Studrawa has to address. He lost a consensus All-American in Wyatt Davis and Rimington Trophy finalist in Josh Myers, and returning starter Harry Miller is missing the entirety of spring camp with an injury.
Accounting for the departures and injury, however, the Buckeyes should be plenty talented at guard and center. Three guys entered the spring as presumptive favorites – Miller, Paris Johnson and Matthew Jones – and they remain the three most likely starters on the interior, with Dawand Jones also in the mix. Miller already has a year of starting experience, Johnson came into the program as a ridiculous athlete in a well-built 6-foot-6 frame and Jones is finally putting it all together mentally in his fourth season after always having the physical tools to start.
But two second-year linemen – Wypler and Josh Fryar – have positioned themselves as legitimate candidates who should also be taken seriously for the openings.
Neither has much experience whatsoever. Wypler played 15 total snaps as a reserve last year, and Fryar was on the field for four snaps in garbage time in the win at Michigan State. Both of them redshirted in 2020, and yet both of them have eyes on breaking through to win starting jobs in 2021 despite being viewed as underdogs.
Wypler, who’s spending the spring at center, wasted no time trying to wedge his way into the competition.
The day after the loss to Alabama in the national championship game, the 6-foot-3, 300-pounder dialed up offensive line coach Greg Studrawa. Unlike the rest of his teammates, he hadn’t gone home to see his family. He was still in Columbus, and at the time he happened to be on the indoor field at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. Wypler had called Studrawa because he wanted critiques on a drill he was doing.
“That was a tough loss and tough pill to swallow,” Wypler said on Wednesday. “For me, I know what I'm up against this year. With Josh Myers obviously leaving for the NFL draft and Wyatt Davis leaving for the NFL draft, there's two open jobs on the O-line. I want to make sure that I put myself in the best position to be in the best shape and be working on my tools and everything that I can personally do to be the best player I can be.”
Studrawa added: “He's got quickness. He's really good now at snapping the ball and stepping. He's got a rhythm now with the ability to do those things. And he studies the game. He knows every position. He knows all those things. And the time and effort that he puts into it is something I love. A guy that works that hard, you're going to be successful, period. And that's one of the things I love about the kid.”
Wypler might have a slightly better shot than Fryar to start this fall, though to do so he’d likely have to prove that he’s the best option at center. This spring, he’s splitting snaps at first-team center with Jones, but Miller – who Studrawa said will likely start again next season at either center or guard – will be back by the time preseason camp begins.
To force his way into the starting lineup and prove he’s one of the best five linemen on the team, Wypler needs to put together one heck of an offseason, and he understands that, which is why he didn't go home when most of his teammates did. Thus far, he’s making the impression he wanted.
“I would say Luke's really good at being able to have that football IQ, as well, and being able to make things work on the fly and being able to make small changes here and there to help himself,” Petit-Frere said.
The fourth-year offensive tackle also said Fryar has had a “great spring ball.”
Unlike Wypler, who entered the program as a high-end four-star recruit and the second-best center in his class, Fryar didn't receive the same hoopla. Analysts slotted him as the 510th-best prospect in the 2020 recruiting cycle, making him the sixth-lowest rated Ohio State signee that year. Studrawa targeted him, though, as a nasty and versatile high school lineman with upside, and he’s seeing it so far.
Fryar has taken reps with the first-team offensive line at left guard this spring. As much as anybody else, he’s benefitting from Miller’s absence from spring practice, which gives some of the younger guys chances to work up with starters in the line ahead of them.
“His athleticism is what excited me in recruiting,” Studrawa said. “He was a basketball player. He’s a guy that’s 6-5, but he has the ability to bend and play really low, and those two things were the things that intrigued me about him when we first got him in recruiting. And it’s only gotten better through training with Mick (Marotti). And now he’s getting stronger, he’s got a little edge to him. And he’s a guy that’s got some grit. He’s got some toughness. He shows up every day and he’s learning, he’s putting things together, but he’s got some grit. And I like that. So that’s what’s kind of got him going.”
Neither Wypler nor Fryar have the in-game experience of Miller or Jones – or even Johnson, who got snaps in the College Football Playoff. Heck, both of them are going through their first spring full camp and were lower-ranked than all three of them.
But this duo has clearly made an impression on Studrawa and the rest of the offensive linemen, and in doing so the two have made themselves realistic contenders to start at this point.