Ohio State's Elite Weapons Could Deliver A Championship In 2022 But Only If A Retooled Offensive Line Does Its Part

By Chris Lauderback on July 26, 2022 at 10:10 am
Dawand Jones and Paris Johnson Jr.
Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch-USA TODAY NETWORK

Ohio State's 2021 offensive line helped the Buckeyes post national rankings of No. 1 in total offense, No. 3 in passing offense and No. 1 in scoring offense but despite its many successes, the group simply could not consistently push elite defenses off the line of scrimmage in the run game. 

To be fair, Ohio State ranked No. 3 nationally in yards per carry (5.54) but it wasn't nearly as good against top-50 defenses. There were many times when Ryan Day elected to abandon the run because his line couldn't overpower its opponent so he leaned heavily on his passing attack.

One reason for a less-than-elite run game when it mattered most came as the former offensive line coach Greg Studrawa deployed a five-man unit that essentially started four tackles. 

Nicholas Petit-Frere and Dawand Jones manned the edges of the line but true tackles Thayer Munford and Paris Johnson Jr. slotted at the guard spots, with Luke Wyper in the middle at center. 

That lineup certainly paid dividends for Ohio State's aerial attack as the group excelled in pass pro, giving up 1.31 sacks per game, good for No. 15 in the country. 

And with quarterback C.J. Stroud surrounded by elite pass-catching weapons in Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave and Jaxon Smith-Njigba, it certainly made sense for the Buckeyes to feature their best pass pro guys and air it out. 

That's exactly what Day did as Ohio State ran the ball on just 46% of its snaps in 2021, easily the lowest percentage since he arrived an offensive assistant in 2017. In fact, prior to last season, no Day offense ran the ball less than 50% of the time. The 2018 squad, riding the rifle arm of Dwayne Haskins, saw a 50/50 split between run and pass plays while the run game accounted for just 32% of the team's total offense. 

2021 5.5 3 180.3 47 380.9 3 32% / 68%
2020 6.0 3 256.9 8 262.5 37 49% / 51% 
2019 5.6 6 266.8 5 263.1 36 50% / 50% 
2018 4.2 76 171.2 63 364.3 2 32% / 68%
2017 5.8 8 243.2 17 262.8 36 48% / 52%

An elite passing game is fun as hell to watch and you can bet Ohio State has another aerial display on tap for this fall but there's something to be said for being able to run it down an opponent's throat when needed. My guess is Day would love for his offensive line's run blocking and physical prowess to be a little more pronounced this year, paving the way for better overall balance while still favoring the pass.

So will that reality actually come to pass? Time will tell but at least the offensive line will feature a more traditional line-up with two true tackles and two true guards flanking Wypler at center. 

At left tackle, after a year starting at an unnatural right guard spot, Johnson is primed to show what he can do on the outside. The five-star monster out of Cincinnati Princeton logged 768 snaps a season ago on the way to second-team All-Big Ten honors as selected by the coaches. It'll be interesting to see if he has any growing pains protecting Stroud's blindside but it seems like a matter of when, not if, it all falls into place for the legit NFL prospect. 

At right tackle, Jones returns after racking up the second-most snaps on the line a season ago (791) while also earning second-team all conference honors in the process. At 6-foot-8, 350 pounds, Jones can be even better this year in both run blocking and pass pro. 

Last year's sixth-man, Matt Jones, projects to finally become a full-time starter. Penciled in at right guard for this season, Jones saw 459 snaps in 2021 with a good chunk of those coming at left guard. The 6-foot-4, 315-pounder out of Broooklyn earned conference honorable mention honors despite being largely featured in a reserve role. Jones is likely Ohio State's backup center should anything happen to Wypler. 

Speaking of, Wypler seemed to get better as the 2021 unfolded - something you hope and expect of a first-year starter - and he should be poised for bigger and better things this fall. A workhorse in 2021, he logged 13 starts and the second-most snaps on the team (860). 

The wildcard within this season's starting five, left guard Donovan Jackson, arrived in Columbus as 247 Sports' No. 1 guard in the 2021 recruiting cycle. The 6-foot-4, 300-pounder saw just 103 snaps a season ago but like Johnson, it seems elite production is damn near his destiny. 

On paper, the starting offensive line looks to have juggernaut potential even if takes a few games to get revved up. That said, depth could be a concern. 

Guard Enokk Vamahi, tackle Josh Fryar and guard/center Jakob James figure to be the top three reserves but with 180 snaps last year between them, new offensive line coach Justin Frye has work to do on the development front. 

All in, Ohio State's starting offensive line has the potential to be more balanced than its 2021 counterparts which could mean the overall offense has a better chance to more consistently overcome any defensive shortcomings on the way to a conference title and a bid in the College Football Playoff. 

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