Ohio State's offensive line will look different without All-Big Ten honorees Paris Johnson Jr., Dawand Jones and Luke Wypler in 2023. But make no mistake, the front-line Buckeyes think of this offseason as an opportunity to reload rather than rebuild.
After Ohio State's fourth spring practice on Thursday, offensive linemen Carson Hinzman, Tegra Tshabola, Josh Fryar, Zen Michalski and Donovan Jackson met with the media at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center to discuss their development under second-year position coach Justin Frye, who also held a brief press conference with gathered reporters.
Among many different topics discussed at the Woody, Frye spoke about how the unit has come together in a short period of time and how excited he is to see them continue to gel as the 2023 season approaches.
Additionally, Hinzman talked about his competitive mindset as he attempts to win the starting center position, while Tshabola expressed his excitement to lose his black stripe, Fryar his comfortability at left tackle, Michalski his "high hopes" to excel at right tackle and Jackson his natural transition into a leadership role.
We've rounded up some of the most notable comments from each of them below, and you can watch the videos to hear more of what each of them had to say.
- Frye said Josh Fryar is embracing the role of “I’m now the next year guy, the veteran guy in the room now” in his preperation for competing for a starting tackle position. He said he’s been pleased with how Fryar has tried to take the next step in training, how hard he goes in practice and technique selection.
- On Carson Hinzman, Frye said he’s impressed with how competitive he’s been in practice and that Carson is his own hardest critic. “He’s in extra film study all the time, he wants to be really good that way. He’s a high-level talent that’s just figuring out how to play at 296-pounds.”
- Frye said you “can’t timestamp” finding starters on the offensive line, saying “the expectation for these guys right now is you have to embrace the practice.” He stressed it’s only practice four of the spring and OSU has time to find a starting group.
- Asked about offensive line recruiting specifically and if it will help sell OSU to prospects when Paris Johnson likely gets drafted in the first round next month, Frye said “You come to Ohio State to be a first-round pick, we offer kids to come to Ohio State to be the best version of themselves.”
- On Tegra Tshabola, Frye said he’s “happy with what he’s doing and unhappy about two or three” plays he did in Thursday’s practice because he didn’t block the right defender. But Frye said Tshabola’s attitude is great and he has a passion for being the best version of himself.
- “This spring is where most of the growth will happen at.” Hinzman says “I don’t want to waste an opportunity” to play next to some of the best offensive linemen in the country as the Buckeyes’ potential starting center.
- Hinzman says there was “some nervousness” about playing with the first-team Buckeyes at first, but that “after the first day, I’ve never felt more comfortable playing with the guys I do.” Hinzman says he’s leaning heavily on the rest of his offensive line and isn’t worrying about trying to be a “superstar” at this stage in his development.
- Hinzman says his background as a dairy farmer helped instill a hard-working mindset into him at a young age. “I never looked at that as work, I never looked at that as chores. We just looked at it as this is what we gotta do today.” Hinzman says he’s applied that work ethic to his football career and that is “probably the whole key to my success.”
- Hinzman calls Victor Cutler “a great competitor” and says he’s played “a lot more football than I have.” But Hinzman says Cutler transferring to Ohio State gave him an “extra drive” to work harder to try and earn the starting center spot.
- Tshabola was excited to shed his black stripe at practice this week. “It was big. It was a long time coming, some things happened last year, but it’s a good feeling to have it off.”
- Tshabola said Ohio State’s offensive line room has been putting in extra work before and after practice this spring. He said Donovan Jackson and Matt Jones have been leaders in that time as returning starters with the most experience.
- Tshabola said he has tried to be more “calm” on the field this offseason, something Paris Johnson Jr. taught him as Johnson has prepared for the NFL draft in January, February and March. His initial desire as a freshman was to always be physical, but Johnson helped him learn that there is a time to be calm and a time to be violent as an offensive lineman.
- Tshabola said he “always” talks to Ohio State’s defensive linemen after plays and asks them how he can improve his play. He wants to know how the defensive linemen attack him and look to beat him so he can work to develop those areas.
- Fryar said it hasn’t been hard for him to switch from right tackle to left tackle because he has experience lining up all over the offensive line and playing the Bison role as a sixth offensive lineman.
- On protecting the quarterback’s blind side: “I feel like it’s a huge responsibility, but I’m willing to take that responsibility.” He said it’s an “extreme honor” to be trusted with that responsibility.
- Fryar said his first three years at Ohio State have been “rough” between COVID-19 impacting the 2020 season, tearing his ACL in 2021 and waiting his turn to start last season, but he believes he grew a lot last year and said having to wait for his chance to start has made him “a lot more hungry.”
- Michalski said his transition from left tackle to right tackle has been somewhat challenging, mainly because he developed a comfortability and familiarity with the left side of the offensive line throughout his career. “It’s been interesting… but I have high hopes.”
- Michalski said he learned early on this offseason that he would switch to the right side. “It was a few weeks into winter workouts,” he said.
- Michalski said he’s become a big brother to Tegra Tshabola. He said he loves Tshabola and recently took off his black stripe and replaced it with a scarlet-colored stripe. Michalski said he wants nothing but to see Tshabola succeed.
- Michalski said he feels confident he can start at right tackle from day one in Ohio State’s offense. He knows it will be difficult, referring to Paris Johnson Jr.'s challenges in his transition from left guard to left tackle. However, he is ready to overcome adversity and thrive in his new spot.
- “Left tackle is a hard f––– position. Sorry, I didn’t mean to curse,” Michalski laughed. He said he’s grateful to have learned the skills necessary to play that spot in case he needs to in the future but feels ready to make the switch to right tackle if that’s what the team needs to be successful.
- Jackson says he’s been tasked with doing things the right way the first time “and lead the young guys to do the right thing so they’re not repeat offenders.” Jackson says it’s “definitely a new role to try to show everyone what to do.”
- Jackson has been “building chemistry with Josh (Fryar) all over again” at the left tackle spot.
- On Carson Hinzman: “Carson’s very smart, he’s always asking for tips to progress his way of watching film, tips of ways of IDing plays correctly.” Jackson says he’s “taken strides in the right direction.”
- Jackson says he discussed the possibility of moving over to tackle with Justin Frye early in the offseason, but that “Coach Frye and I felt like it was probably best for me to stay at guard. There’s no worries at our tackle spots, they’re doing a great job, better than I could have.”
- Jackson says Tegra Tshabola has “made great strides” and “changed his body for the better” while transitioning from guard to tackle. Tshabola has “improved leaps and bounds” on using his hands on the offensive line. Jackson feels like Tshabola would “excel anywhere we put him” on the OL.