Enokk Vimahi Making Case for Being One of Ohio State’s Best Five Offensive Linemen Despite Returning Starters at Guard

By Dan Hope on June 6, 2023 at 10:10 am
Enokk Vimahi

During his interview session at Ohio State last week, Justin Frye repeatedly said the Buckeyes’ starting offensive line will consist of their five best offensive linemen.

Frye also implied that he viewed Enokk Vimahi as one of Ohio State’s five best offensive linemen coming out of spring.

“I told Enokk, as we're sitting here today, if we were going (to play a game right now), then Enokk's gotta get on the field somewhere, somehow because of what he did in the spring,” Frye said.

The problem with Vimahi potentially being one of Ohio State’s five best offensive linemen is that he plays the same position as the Buckeyes’ top two offensive linemen.

Right now, the only two surefire starters on Ohio State’s offensive line this season are Donovan Jackson and Matt Jones. Jackson played left guard while Jones played right guard for the Buckeyes last season. While Frye believes Jackson could play all five positions on the offensive line and said Jones can also play center, he said the plan is still for both of them to remain at guard.

“Matt's played center before, he could slide in and play center. Donnie could play all five; no one’s asking him to do that but talent-wise and athleticism, he's as good as you're going to be around,” Frye said. “I hope we don’t have to break that glass though. I’ll put that out there. But could Donnie do it if he needed to? Absolutely. Could Matt slide over and play a different position if he needed to? Yeah.”

Ideally, Frye wants to see two other players emerge as reliable starting tackles and another player lock down the starting center job so that Jackson and Jones can remain at their established positions. Josh Fryar, Josh Simmons, Tegra Tshabola and Zen Michalski will be among those competing for starting tackle jobs in preseason camp while Carson Hinzman, Jakob James and Victor Cutler Jr. are vying to start at center.

Should those competitions fail to yield three starters the Buckeyes feel comfortable with, though, or if injuries occur over the course of the season, Ohio State could consider moving Jackson to tackle or Jones to center. The development of Vimahi, who is entering his fifth year at Ohio State but has yet to be a regular starter for the Buckeyes, would give them more flexibility to shuffle things around up front.

Vimahi, who lined up primarily as a second-team guard this spring but also mixed in for plenty of first-team reps at the position, impressed Frye with how consistently well he performed in spring practices.

“He’s a powerful, strong guy, and he played that way coming out of the spring,” Frye said. “I think for him, just going into later in his career now, it took him a little longer for it to slow down. But he played strong, he played powerful, made less mistakes. It’s just the natural maturation of an offensive lineman.”

In his first career start against Michigan last year, a game Jones missed due to a foot injury, Vimahi played just two possessions before being replaced for the remainder of the game by Fryar. But Frye believes that was a valuable learning experience that will help Vimahi perform better in the future.

“You can talk about it till you’re blue in the face, but then now seeing it and watching it on tape and being a part of it, there's another learning opportunity there from like, ‘Okay, this is what I can't let happen again. This is what happens if I do do that.’ So that'll be a big benefit for him,” Frye said.

Realistically, the most likely scenario for Vimahi remains that he will be a backup for the Buckeyes for another year. Vimahi still has two years of collegiate eligibility thanks to the additional year all players received due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, so Vimahi could still have the opportunity to earn a starting job in 2024 if it doesn’t come this year.

While major questions linger at tackle and center, Frye says he feels good about Ohio State’s depth at guard for the 2023 season, and Vimahi is a big reason for that, especially after Ben Christman – the other second-team guard during spring practices – opted to transfer to Kentucky.

Being the top backup at both guard spots seems like the most probable role for Vimahi to play this season right now, but he just might convince Frye to find a starting job for him if he remains one of Ohio State’s top five offensive linemen through the preseason. Vimahi has also spent some time practicing at tackle during his Buckeye career, so while he was only seen practicing at guard this spring, it’s not out of the question that he could enter the competition elsewhere as well.

“At the end of the day, you got to play the five best,” Frye said. “I've always said this, you've probably heard me say this many times, if the right guard goes down and the backup right guard is not the sixth-best guy and your backup right tackle is, then you got to find a way to get your fifth best guy on the field. I think that's pretty universal, though, if you look around even historically here, I watched the tape before I got here, the cut-ups, and guys sliding to different positions, you got to play your five best guys.”

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