The story that former Ohio State offensive line coach Greg Studrawa liked to tell about Luke Wypler is that the day following the loss to Alabama in the 2021 College Football Playoff championship game, it was the true freshman Wypler working on his own in OSU’s football facility and sending video of it to Studrawa to ask for critique and coaching.
The 2020 season from hell had just ended and everyone needed a rest. Head coach Ryan Day told his team to go home and take a break. See family. Recharge.
But it was Wypler who was working on his own. Snapping, drilling footwork, pushing sleds, whatever. He played in one game in 2020 as a true freshman and it was clear that he was going to do everything in his power to see the field more as a redshirt freshman.
Wypler battled Matthew Jones for the starting center job last spring and surprisingly won it. It was a year of upheaval on the offensive line, with Harry Miller out for the year and Thayer Munford moving to guard to allow Dawand Jones into the top five in fall camp. Despite the movement, Wypler stayed solid and was never an afterthought in the starting lineup. He played the position well last year. He wasn’t flawless, but he did end up earning Third-Team All-Big Ten notice.
“I think last year it didn’t ever seem like I was thrown in,” Wypler said this spring. “I think I was prepared. I prepared all offseason for it. So it was something I was ready for. Now the experience is just an added bonus, so still working to get better every day.”
It is a new year now and Wypler is a year older. With the new year came more upheaval, as Studrawa was fired and Justin Frye was hired from UCLA to be Ohio State’s new offensive line coach.
For a player like Wypler who entrenched himself as the team’s starting center, change isn’t always good. So far, however, things have gone just fine.
“I really like him. Coach Frye has come in and done an excellent job with our unit,” Wypler said. “I think he really takes a great approach to coaching, kind of coaching everyone individually and trying to get us better every day.”
Having a new coach and a better understanding of his own job has allowed Wypler to gain new perspectives from both his new coach and his more experienced self. This is no longer his first rodeo and he now has a much better grasp on the bull he is being asked to ride.
“The game is starting to slow down,” he said. “It’s nice to kind of play the game inside the game now. Just using different techniques and doing different types of things to improve every day.”
The game inside the game is where the great centers thrive. Wypler doesn’t shy away from the mental work, just like he doesn’t shy away from the physical aspects of the position.
“I really love to study the game,” he said. “That’s one of my biggest trademarks that I try to impose. Obviously, I’m not Dawand or anyone with elite size or frame, but I think I do a really good job in the film room and trying to get after it.”
The smarter a center is, the more he can help his quarterback recognize pressures. And the smarter a quarterback is, the more he can help his center. This year, with the return of starting quarterback CJ Stroud, the Buckeyes have an experienced battery to keep the offense running.
“After starting 13 games here last year, I think me and him have a really good rapport with each other,” Wypler said. “We know what each other is thinking every play, so it’s easy to communicate without actually having to communicate.”
Last year, the Buckeyes led the nation in points per game (45.7) and total offense (561.2 yards per game). They averaged a nation-best 8.0 yards per play. They were third in yards per rush (5.54) and fourth in yards per pass (10.0). And despite those numbers, because of Wypler and Stroud being together for a second year, things could be even better in 2022.
“I think you’ll see a lot cleaner operation,” Wypler said. “Probably won’t have to communicate at the line so much because when we see the look, we both know what we’re thinking, we’re both on the same page.”