Nicholas Petit-Frere “Pretty Sure” He’ll Open Season at Left Tackle For Ohio State, Says Thayer Munford is “One of the Best Guards in the Nation”

By Griffin Strom on August 30, 2021 at 3:56 pm
Nicholas Petit-Frere and Thayer Munford

Ryan Day did not announce Ohio State's starting offensive linemen on Monday, but indications were clear from his press conference about the direction the Buckeyes are going in Thursday’s opener.

Nicholas Petit-Frere, who started every game of the 2020 season at right tackle for Ohio State, revealed more than Day himself about the potential new-look alignment up front for the Buckeyes, when he said it’s likely he will play on the other end of the line against Minnesota.

“I’m pretty sure I’m gonna be playing at left tackle this Thursday, but you know, anything can happen,” Petit-Frere said. “We’re always prepared as offensive lineman to play any position possible on the field, that’s why we don’t just learn one position.”

A lineup featuring Petit-Frere at left tackle, Thayer Munford at left guard, Harry Miller at center, Paris Johnson Jr. at right guard and Dawand Jones was debuted by offensive line coach Greg Studrawa during fall camp, and it appears the Buckeye coaching staff has liked what it’s seen from the unit.

Petit-Frere, a five-star high school recruit and the No. 1-rated tackle prospect in the class of 2018, said the transition has not been a completely seamless one, as he’s had to make adjustments to play on the left side. However, Petit-Frere said the improvements are noticeable and that he feels self-assured in the new spot entering Thursday’s game.

“I feel pretty confident where I’m at right now,” Petit-Frere said. “We’ve worked at it during camp, I’ve had a lot of help from coach Stud and everyone around me just getting comfortable in the position, and I feel pretty good about it.” 

Munford, who has started at left tackle for the Buckeyes for the past three seasons, missed several preseason practices with an undisclosed injury, but Day said he doesn’t expect the issue to hold Munford out of the season opener.

“He’s gonna be available, but if he wasn’t, we have some good, solid backups behind him,” Day said.

A first-time team captain this season, Munford was also given the team’s Block 0 jersey this past week, an honor that began last season when former Buckeye defensive end Jonathon Cooper donned the No. 0. The tradition is inspired by all-time great Ohio State defensive end Bill Willis, whose No. 99 jersey is retired for the Buckeyes.

“First off, [Munford’s] from Ohio. Secondly, he’s been through a lot in his career,” Day said. “This is a guy who wasn’t very highly recruited, had to lose a bunch of weight to even earn a scholarship here, had a back injury along the way, overcame a lot of obstacles and he’s done everything the right way. He decided to come back for another year and he just has the respect of everybody around here and really exemplifies everything that Bill Willis stood for.”

Petit-Frere lauded Munford for his leadership in the program and said he doesn’t expect much – if any – drop-off when it comes to his pedigree of play at guard as opposed to his history at the tackle position.

“He was one of the best tackles in the nation, I feel like he’s one of the best guards in the nation as well, which is a testament saying he’s probably one of the best offensive linemen in the nation,” Petit-Frere said. “Thayer’s just an amazing competitor when it comes to his work ethic on and off the field, when it comes to film study and just being a teammate, but then also his aggression on the field, how great he is in terms of technique-wise and knowing his plays and understanding different defenses and schemes.”

If Munford is moving to guard and Petit-Frere to left tackle after all, though, that’s likely because Jones has cemented himself among the five best players on the Buckeyes’ offensive line. Day indicated that his mind has not been made up entirely just yet, but that Jones has caught his eye throughout the preseason.

“We’ll see as we get towards game time, but he’s had a very, very good camp,” Day said. “We’ve moved some different guys around, but I’m very, very impressed with his approach every day, the way he’s worked, the way he’s developed over the last three years. We’ll continue to work through and see how the next couple days go, but I’m very, very impressed with him and excited to see how he plays.”

Studrawa said during camp that Jones, who's listed at 6-foot-8 and 360 pounds, has been a dominant pass protector, and Petit-Frere said he’s seen Jones grow into the role during the fall. The Indianapolis native also appears to be supplying the unit with enthusiasm ahead of the new season. 

“He’s been a really big juice guy for us when it comes to the offensive line and actually the team in general, of always coming in every single day with a lot of energy, a lot of juice and a big passion for the game,” Petit-Frere said. “And that’s something that a lot of players have revolved around and kind of latched onto, especially myself as well. So we love having Dawand and how much he’s practiced, and he’s done a really good job.”

While nothing is set in stone until the Buckeyes open their first offensive series in Minneapolis, Ohio State is trending in a direction that would see all five offensive linemen begin the season in positions that they did not regularly start at in 2020.

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