Thayer Munford isn’t afraid to set high expectations for himself.
During his interview session with Ohio State reporters on Wednesday, Munford said his goal is to be the top offensive tackle in the 2022 NFL draft.
“I do believe I will be the best tackle that’s coming out of next year’s draft,” Munford said. “I just believe that if you keep working at it, you’re gonna get there.”
That would seemingly be a huge jump up the board for Munford, who “was a projected mid-round pick” for the 2021 NFL draft before he opted to return for an extra year of eligibility, according to The Athletic’s Dane Brugler. While Oregon’s Penei Sewell and Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater are both widely seen as top-10 picks in this year’s draft, most NFL draft analysts weren’t talking about Munford as a potential first-rounder.
Arguably, he should have been in the conversation. Pro Football Focus graded Munford’s 2020 season as the fourth-best season by a Big Ten offensive tackle since it began grading college players, and the three offensive tackles ranked ahead of him – Jack Conklin, Ryan Ramczyk and Tristan Wirfs – all went on to be first-round draft picks. Also per PFF, Munford had the highest grade among all offensive tackles returning to college football this season.
Still, Munford will have plenty of competition to be the top tackle off the board next year. Alabama’s Evan Neal, Kentucky’s Darian Kinnard, Oklahoma’s Wanya Morris, Penn State’s Rasheed Walker and his Ohio State teammate Nicholas Petit-Frere are among those who look like early candidates to be early-round NFL draft picks at offensive tackle next season.
If Munford wants to achieve his goal of becoming a top draft pick in 2022, he knows he still has to get better.
“I’m not really satisfied with where I’m at right now,” Munford said. “I’m happy where I’m at, but I’m not really satisfied.”
His coaches and teammates have already seen improvement from Munford this spring, though, and Ohio State offensive line coach Greg Studrawa believes the fifth-year senior left tackle is capable of being the best offensive tackle in college football this season.
As we detailed here a couple of weeks ago, Munford’s decision to return to Ohio State for one more year was primarily driven by his desire to get his degree and become the first member of his family to graduate from college. But he also made that decision because he still doesn’t believe he’s as good as he can be, and he thinks another year at Ohio State will help him get there.
“I can’t tell you how far he’s come. It’s unbelievable,” Studrawa said. “He’s as strong as he’s ever been. He’s moving as quick as he’s ever been at 320 pounds. And his attention to detail and technique totally has changed. And I think at the end of the season, when we sat down and talked about it, obviously the degree was important. But more so is, ‘Coach, I haven’t peaked yet. I can be better than this.’ And I think he realized that.
“Part of the reason why he came back was to attain that level of, ‘I’m not just really good. I’m the best.’ And he’s got a chance to be the best tackle in the country. If he wants to focus on and pick up where he left off last year and do those things, he’s got a chance to be the best. And that’s really what he’s chasing. He’s chasing the fact that he wants to be elite, he wants to be a first-rounder, he wants to be the best in the game. And I think that’s what’s driving him, and it’s really, really good.”
Petit-Frere has seen Munford work harder than ever before this offseason to perfect his craft.
“He has a lot of confidence about himself,” Petit-Frere said. “He has a lot of confidence, a lot of effort and a lot of determination. And he had a great spring, a great winter in terms of working out. So he’s shown what he wants to do, and he’s been working out, doing a lot of film work and doing all the things necessary to achieve that goal.”
“He wants to be elite, he wants to be a first-rounder, he wants to be the best in the game. And I think that’s what’s driving him, and it’s really, really good.”– Greg Studrawa on Thayer Munford
Munford believes going up against Ohio State’s stable of defensive ends in practice every day is exactly what he needs to become the elite prospect he wants to be.
“There’s the little things that I still need to fix for myself just going against Zach Harrison, Tyreke Smith and Javontae (Jean-Baptiste) all practice of course, but also at the same time though, I’m working to get better and I’m making them better, as well,” Munford said. “I gotta keep building myself and my mental state as well and my technique, too.”
Now the most experienced player on Ohio State’s entire roster entering his fourth season as the Buckeyes’ starting left tackle, Munford is one of the players Ryan Day has singled out as someone who has stepped up as a leader this winter and spring.
There’s another goal Munford wants to accomplish in his final season as a Buckeye, too – winning a national championship – so he’s also doing what he can to try to make his teammates better while he chases his individual aspirations.
“I love doing that,” Munford said. “Sometimes, the young guys come up to ask me like ‘How can I do this? How can I get better at this?’ I just give them my advice, and they work at it. It’s young guys under me right now that’s going to be great leaders in the near future, too. But I’m there just to help everybody out and have everybody else on the same page, about how practice is going to go and how our O-line unit’s gonna go as well.”