From the moment Paris Johnson committed to the Buckeyes, the countdown officially began ticking towards the day he would be Ohio State’s starting left tackle.
Johnson committed three years ago this June, so this has been a bit of a long time coming. As a true freshman, he competed for the starting right tackle job and remained there as a backup. Last year as a sophomore, he was one of the five best linemen on the team, but the depth at tackle meant he would need to play somewhere else. He spent the season as the Buckeyes’ starting right guard.
It was not a small undertaking for Johnson to move to guard. It was a position he had never played, but he took ownership of it and earned Second-Team All-Big Ten honors from the conference coaches.
Now that he is finally at left tackle, Johnson will be taking ownership of this position as well, both physically and mentally.
“I guess the way that I’m trying to take my mindset is like, yes, this is my third season, but I mentally have to be able to accept the mistakes that I make along the way,” he explained. “I have my mindset of ‘Okay, this is year one of left tackle.’ My first year was year one at right tackle. And then in the postseason I moved over to guard. All last season was my first season at guard. And now it’s my first season of left tackle. So I’m going to allow myself to refresh my mind, you know? It’s year one. I’m learning and trying to paint the picture in my mindset. I’m trying to paint the picture with little strokes. I’m not trying to rush the whole picture. I guess that’s my mindset.”
Johnson has taken his responsibilities seriously as a Buckeye, and because he has, he has been given new and different responsibilities each season. From starting out as a right tackle, to moving to right guard, and now being “home” at left tackle, there were steps all along the way. Questions were asked. Answers were learned. Through it all, Johnson gained the reputation as not only a smart player, but one who was hungry to learn as much as he could be taught.
“He’s all over football,” new Ohio State offensive line coach Justin Frye said this spring. “The run game and pass game, protections, adjustment calls, all those things. He’s just an information craver, like ‘Well, Coach, why are we doing that? Okay, that makes sense. So I can use that here, here and here?’ ‘Yes.’ Right? ‘When would we do this? Would I do it here?’ ‘No, here’s why.’ ‘Oh, okay.’ He just wants to collect the information because he wants to be right. He wants to be great.”
The better a player understands the whys of a scheme, the better they will play and the more it becomes second nature. It requires a lot of questions, but questions aren’t a bad thing because coaches can then see the wheels turning.
Paris Johnson’s wheels did just fine in the spring and he will continue to prepare for his first year at left tackle. He’s also going to continue to ask Justin Frye questions along the way.
Which is precisely what a coach wants.
And when asked if it can be exhausting dealing with such an inquisitive player, Frye laid things out plainly.
“No, not exhausting. I mean, when guys love ball, then you can love them back. You can give them as much as you want,” he said. “And he has been that way. Sometimes it’s an easy answer, sometimes it’s, ‘Well, you figure it out,’ because that’s what you need to do. So that’s coaching. That goes back to, you can’t just feed him, feed him, feed him. If he wants to be a great player, he’s got to figure some stuff out on his own. So there’s some things it’s like, ‘Hey, that’s a great question. Here’s why.’ There’s been other times where I’m like, ‘Why don’t you watch it on the film and come back with your own answer before you’d have me answer it.’ So that’s how they learn and teach. When guys love ball, it’s not exhausting at all.”