The questions on Ohio State’s offensive line won’t be settled overnight. But the picture got a bit clearer after the first spring practice.
Ryan Day said fourth-year lineman Josh Fryar will start the spring at left tackle, while second- and third-year linemen Tegra Tshabola and Zen Michalski will compete for the vacant right tackle positions. Along with the starting quarterback job, the tackle positions may be the most important for Ohio State to figure out this offseason given the losses of both Paris Johnson Jr. and Dawand Jones.
At least through one padless practice, though, Day didn’t see any glaring issues with the alignment. And as expected, second-year Buckeye Carson Hinzman and Louisiana-Monroe transfer Victor Cutler are the top two centers this spring as Ohio State works to replace Luke Wypler on the interior.
“We moved Josh to left, we felt like he had enough experience. He felt comfortable making that move, we'll see how that goes as we start to put the pads on," Day said. "It's hard with no pads, just the point of contact. But watching him move his feet, that was really good. We see Zen and Tegra on the other side, watch the film, kind of see where they're at. Carson's at center there, Vic’s at center. So first day, it's kind of hard to tell. But I don't think anybody looked out of place. And they're going against a good front; JT (Tuimoloau) and Jack (Sawyer) and Tyleik (Williams) and Ty (Hamilton). So we're gonna get a great evaluation as we head through 15 practices.”
Day said it took plenty of deliberation from the coaching staff to decide where to place Fryar, Michalski and Tshabola, but thinks they made “the right play” as of now.
Fryar started in place of an injured Jones at right tackle against Indiana this past season, and also played significant snaps at guard against Michigan with regular starter Matt Jones out. Michalski, who spent last season as a reserve at left tackle, played 79 snaps in 2022. Tshabola played only at right guard during his freshman season, but at 6-foot-6, 327 pounds, Day is confident in the four-star recruit’s ability to move to the outside.
“Zen was at left tackle, Tegra was at right guard. So now they’ve both taken on that right tackle position. We spent a lot of time figuring out if that was the right move, but we felt like making Josh the left tackle and then really having those guys compete at right tackle was the right play,” Day said. “It'll take a little adjustment for them, certainly for Tegra, making the move from inside to outside. And then Zen from left to right.
“So first day, it's kind of hard to tell. But I don't think anybody looked out of place.”– Ryan Day on the new-look offensive line
“But Tegra will be into year two, Tegra got a lot of two reps for us last year, we see a lot of potential in Tegra. And I think every rep you get in Tegra is going to pay off in the long run. I think it's a really good investment. Hoping that he can make a push. Zen, this is a big year for him. This is year three and so again, I don't think we'll get an idea until we put the pads on.”
Despite any issues the group may face in the spring, Day said even last year’s offensive line struggled in the preseason before ultimately answering the bell by the time the season rolled around.
“We were talking about it as an offensive staff; at this time last year and even towards the end of spring, our guys had a hard time blocking our front,” Day said. “And I think they did a great job closing the gap throughout the summer and shoot, Paris has now got a chance to be a top-10 pick. So there's a lot of work to be done. But certainly those guys are going to have to step up and this is a great opportunity for them to do it over the next 15 practices.”