Josh Fryar knew he had hurt his knee while warming up before Ohio State’s rivalry game at Michigan last season, but he didn’t know until after the game just how badly he had injured it.
Believing he had only suffered a minor injury, Fryar played through the pain and was on the field for each of the Buckeyes’ two field goals and three extra points in their 42-27 loss. He wasn’t going to let a minor injury stop him from playing in The Game.
“I thought it was just like a meniscus or something,” Fryar said of his knee injury. “I wanted to play in the team up north game. That's the game we come here to play for.”
As it turned out, however, Fryar had torn his ACL. That injury would sideline him for the Rose Bowl and the entirety of spring practice. With the help of Ohio State physical therapist Adam Stewart and the rest of the Buckeyes’ medical staff, however, Fryar was able to make an eight-month recovery from that injury and get back on the field for the start of preseason camp last week.
Four practices into preseason camp, Fryar said he is feeling “95%” healthy.
“I think I'm close to getting back (to 100%),” Fryar said Monday. “I just gotta do all the necessary things to get back fully.”
Fryar said it was “really tough” watching from the sidelines this spring. Ohio State coach Ryan Day singled out offensive line depth multiple times this spring as an area that needed to improve, and Fryar felt like he could have helped the second-team offensive line perform better in practice.
Now that he’s back on the field running as the No. 2 right tackle, Fryar believes it his responsibility to be a leader for the second-team offensive line.
“The first team’s obviously good. The second team needed a little help. I think they need leadership too. And that's why I think I'm coming back to get that leadership in the second team,” Fryar said.
That said, Fryar doesn’t want to just be a backup for the Buckeyes this year. Going into his third season at Ohio State, Fryar wants to be on the field playing legitimate snaps.
“I know for me, my mindset is to play,” Fryar said. “I want to play. I don't want to sit back and wait.”
Fryar currently sits outside of the starting lineup, which consists of Paris Johnson Jr., Donovan Jackson, Luke Wypler, Matt Jones and Dawand Jones. But with experience lining up at tackle, guard and center, Fryar is pushing to be the sixth man on Ohio State’s offensive line this year, much like Matt Jones was last year, when Jones ended up playing 459 snaps off the bench.
“I think Matt did an unbelievable job last year. And that's where I envision myself,” Fryar said.
Fryar could also potentially see snaps as a sixth offensive lineman/jumbo tight end in short-yardage and red zone situations, a role that enabled Jackson to play some first-team snaps for the Buckeyes last year.
Two years into his Ohio State career, Fryar has played only 98 total offensive snaps, and he says it hasn’t been easy to stay patient while waiting his turn for a chance to play more. But there have been plenty of indications over the past couple of years from his Ohio State coaches and teammates that Fryar is on a trajectory to be a future starter for the Buckeyes, and he believes his strong desire to play has pushed him to perform at his best in practice.
“It's really hard, but I think it also shows that you need discipline,” Fryar said of waiting his turn. “And I think when you show that – I think it's good. I think showing discipline and having that urge to play but like, you're not there yet but you have the urge to play I think is the best key to have. And when your number's called, and they're saying, ‘Hey, Josh, you’re in,’ I'm going to take full advantage of it.”
“I want to play. I don't want to sit back and wait.”– Josh Fryar
He believes his chance to play more will come as long as he continues to put in the work.
“I think just working in practice, working against these guys (pointing to Ohio State’s defensive linemen) and let the work show for itself,” Fryar said when asked what he needs to do to prove himself.