Every day until fall camp begins for Ohio State, we will profile a different Buckeye football player. Today that player is freshman offensive lineman Zen Michalski. Yesterday it was safety Bryson Shaw. You can find all of the daily Scoop Profiles right here.
No. 65 | Offensive Tackle | 6-9 295 | Freshman | Floyd Central High School | Floyd’s Knobs, Indiana
How’d He Get Here
Zen Michalski is what’s known as a ‘late bloomer’ in offensive line parlance. Or maybe “long-term planner” would be a more apt description. Michalski grew about seven inches and added upwards of one hundred pounds during his four years in high school. Colleges began to take notice after his junior season, but many needed to see what he looked like as a senior before going all in on an offer. In February of 2020, Michalski — who attended Floyd Central High School in Floyd’s Knobs, Indiana — was sitting on an offer from Iowa State. Then Cincinnati, Louisville, Kansas State, Kansas, and Indiana all offered in March. Michalski then committed to Louisville in April. With no spring visits and no camps to evaluate, Ohio State remained patient to see what Michalski had grown into as a senior. After being able to evaluate three games as a senior, the Buckeyes offered Michalski in September, as did Penn State and Florida State. He decommitted from Louisville three weeks after receiving his Ohio State offer and then committed to the Buckeyes a week later. He was ranked the No. 22 offensive tackle in the 2021 class and the No. 310 player overall.
Zen Michalski was one of 15 or so Buckeyes who enrolled in the winter, which allowed him to get into the weight room with Mickey Marotti right away. It also allowed him to participate in spring practice. Just as important as being able to practice was being able to watch pros like Thayer Munford and Nicholas Petit-Frere. He had a front-row seat on how the position should be played and he will be able learn from them for the rest of the year. Michalski was at the back of the line of a very deep group of tackles this spring and that is expected to be the case this year as he finds his footing.
What to Like
Most offensive linemen had no choice but to play offensive line in high school. They were the big guys, so they were plugged in up front and away they went. For Zen Michalski, he had to grow into that position, and he did it with an eye towards playing major college football. Labeling players as “projects” can carry negative connotations, but in reality all freshmen are projects. None are finished products. Michalski has been undertaking this process for years now and that’s a mentality that can get the job done. He clearly has the size to succeed on the offensive line. And he hasn’t always been a big guy, so he also still carries some inherent agility with him. But it’s the desire to play the position and play it at the highest level which is the trait that will take Michalski the furthest.
What’s the Ceiling This Year?
The ceiling for Zen Michalski this year doesn’t really matter. It’s not about this year for him, it’s about 2023, 2024, and 2025. Barring anything unforeseen, the Buckeyes aren’t going to need Michalski on the field this year. Could he get his four games? Sure. But just like with fellow freshman offensive tackle Ben Christman, there are five or six guys who are more experienced and more capable of playing offensive tackle this year for Ohio State. That’s pretty standard for true freshmen offensive linemen. There is a lot that goes into getting an offensive lineman ready to play, both physically and mentally. Year three is really when it becomes a bit more fair to carry serious expectations for most offensive linemen.
There won’t be a need for Zen Michalski to start for the Buckeyes this year, and there shouldn’t be a need next year either as Paris Johnson and Dawand Jones seem primed to be the bookends in 2022. But come 2023, there could be a glaring need for two new offensive tackles. By year three, Michalski will have the necessary understanding of the offense and he’ll be well-equipped in the technique department. The ceiling for Zen Michalski is at least a few years off, but with his size and feet, and a solid plan in place, he could be a two- or three-year starter at left tackle for the Buckeyes down the road.