No other football program earned as many All-America honors in 2019 as Ohio State.
Chase Young and Jeff Okudah were consensus first-teamers on virtually every list, while J.K. Dobbins earned a number of first-team honors as well. Joining them were Justin Fields, Malik Harrison, and Jonah Jackson, each of whom made an appearance on the Associated Press' second or third teams.
But the seventh Buckeye to see his name on the list - as a first-teamer no less - was right guard Wyatt Davis.
In his first full season as a starter, the redshirt sophomore from Los Angeles constantly showed up on Pro Football Focus teams-of-the-week and proved to be one of the nation's best offensive linemen. But such a performance was difficult to recognize in the moment, especially for fans who may not be OL experts.
Often, quality at the guard position is judged by two factors, neither of which are very good. Did the blocker give up a sack or commit a penalty? If not, then he must be doing his job.
Over the past 15 years the value of left tackles has been fetishized thanks to Michael Lewis' book and subsequent movie, The Blind Side. Today, the position is prioritized in both recruiting and NFL draft evaluations, with size and athleticism prized as invaluable commodities.
Similarly, centers are often praised for their intelligence, often tasked with calling out blocking schemes and thought of as an extension of the quarterback. They even get their own award.
But if offensive linemen are the most overlooked positions on the field, then guards are neglected more than anyone. So what makes for a good player at this position?
In his magnum opus, Finding the Winning Edge, the legendary Bill Walsh broke down what he looked for in his guards; values which translate to today's game just as well as they did when he roamed the San Francisco sideline:
As a rule, great offensive guards possess several traits, including quickness, agility, explosiveness, the ability to pull and trap, and the ability to go inside-out on a linebacker.
The offensive guard position requires less technique for pass protecting than is essential for an offensive tackle. On the other hand, the offensive guard position requires more blocking and movement skills. For example, the guard is used on numerous blocking combinations where he must get from point "A" to point "B," pulling through a hole, trapping, pulling on sweeps, coming inside-out on a blitzing linebacker, etc. Collectively, this capability requires that the offensive guard has agility, mobility, and a refined level of techniques.
If tackles must win one-on-one battles along the edges and centers lead the point of attack, then the guards must provide the glue between both extremes, featuring a vast toolbox of skills and techniques that can be employed on any given play.
Though the game has certainly erred in the direction of the passing game, the best teams are still capable of running the football, which is where a guard like Davis is most valuable. Ohio State has long relied on zone-blocking schemes, with the horizontal mid and outside zone runs taking priority last fall.
Instead of simply driving defenders backward, as is the case on inside/tight zone runs, Buckeye linemen were required to use lateral reach steps on these outside runs. Despite his 315 lb frame, Davis often beat his opponent to the spot, getting his body across and sealing the defender (#2 below) inside, keeping him from getting a hand on the runner in the backfield.
When on the front side of this same concept, Davis often had to work with his line-mates to take on a down lineman before eventually working to a second-level defender like a linebacker.
Not only did he show his power by initially driving the first defender backward (below), he could feel when center Josh Myers had enough control of that player to come off and find the linebacker. Instead of just getting in the way of the 'backer, though, Davis delivered not one, but two violent punches that left the defender picking himself up off the turf as the whistle blew.
Despite this power, Davis often showed quick feet and awareness, such as this example where he recognizes a linebacker blitzing through the A-gap. With Myers working in the opposite direction, Davis knows he's responsible for cutting off this gap as the running back will be sliding in right behind him.
Yet the big guard was able to meet the blitzer quickly, using the defender's momentum to drive him into the wash and out of the play. If Davis doesn't have the speed to pick up that penetration, a five-yard gain likely becomes a two-yard loss.
But Davis isn't just effective in tight spaces. Though Ohio State didn't call for it that often, Davis showed he's more than a capable puller, getting out on the edges and engaging with much quicker skill players.
But though he was most valuable in the run game, Davis proved to be an effective pass blocker as well. The Buckeyes heavily featured a vertical, play-action passing game which required the line to block for extended periods of time quite often, yet Davis was more than able to maintain his assignments.
Guards don't face the same level of pressure as tackles do in such situations, with speed rushers coming at them with virtually no help. But guards still face plenty of one-on-one battles in these scenarios.
When Davis was left alone with pass rushers, he maintained good balance, keeping his weight over his heels and delivering heavy punches without leaning. After keeping a good bend in the knees that left his chest and eyes upright, Davis' strength often proved too much for the competition.
Though he is still probably best known for being the son of Alvin Mack and the grandson of a five-time all-pro defensive lineman, Wyatt Davis has a nasty streak that defenders will certainly remember. In clip after clip, he combines excellent technique with the type of physical mentality that wears on defenders, driving them into the turf and making them rue the next time they'd meet.
Despite his breakout performance in 2019, Davis decided to return for his fourth season in Columbus, providing an outstanding foundation for the Buckeye offense alongside Myers and left tackle Thayer Munford. Though Davis likely won't receive an invitation to New York in December, his quarterback certainly might, which will be due in large part to the unsung efforts of Ohio State's elite right guard.