Ohio State had one of the best pairs of offensive tackles in the nation over the past two years. And over the past two seasons, Nicholas Petit-Frere was the common denominator. In 2020, Petit-Frere played right tackle and teamed with left tackle Thayer Munford. Then this past season, Petit-Frere moved to left tackle and Dawand Jones stepped in at right tackle.
In Petit-Frere’s two years as a starter, he was arguably the Buckeyes’ most consistent player. As a redshirt sophomore in 2020, he was named Second-Team All-Big Ten by the conference’s coaches. He upped that in 2021, earning First-Team All-Big Ten and First-Team All-American honors.
Petit-Frere could have come back for a fifth season but opted to forego the rest of his eligibility and enter the 2022 NFL Draft. Now without him, the Buckeyes are going to have to replace a talented athlete who has arguably been both OSU’s best right tackle and left tackle over the last six years.
There are, however, plans in place.
When Paris Johnson signed with Ohio State in 2020 he was always seen as the left tackle of the future. He spent a year abroad at right guard this past season for the Buckeyes but he will almost certainly be playing tackle for Ohio State in 2022.
Another possibility is that Dawand Jones could move from right tackle where he started last year and earned Second-Team All-Big Ten honors. This would be a bit of a surprise and would require more moving parts than simply Jones.
The Buckeyes also have options in reserves who are now upperclassmen like Enokk Vimahi and Josh Fryar. Both have been in the two-deep. Vimahi is a fourth-year junior who has spent time at left tackle. Fryar is a redshirt sophomore who has spent time all over the offensive line.
Grant Toutant is another third year player looking to forge more of a role in 2022. Trey Leroux is in the same boat as well. Zen Michalski redshirted last year as a true freshman but saw action in one game. Ben Christman also redshirted and could eventually find himself in the mix at tackle or guard.
Donovan Jackson played a bunch as a true freshman last year, but many of those snaps were as a blocking tight end. Most think he will eventually end up at guard — and possibly this season. George Fitzpatrick is a true freshman who has enrolled early but don’t expect him to be in the starting mix just yet.
Back when the Buckeyes were preparing for the Rose Bowl and Nicholas Petit-Frere was opting out, Ohio State offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson brought up the possibility of moving Paris Johnson to left tackle immediately, but that idea was ultimately nixed.
Now, however, that possibility will almost assuredly become reality. Or at least that’s the plan. New offensive line coach Justin Frye will obviously need to see the necessary abilities, but there are no concerns within the program that Johnson won’t be up to the task.
Spring is going to be an invaluable time for every offensive lineman in Frye’s room. The slates are clean and the first impressions will be brand new. The depth chart could change greatly as players mature and adjust to a new coach. Finding the best five is going to be key, but finding two or three left tackles is going to be important as well.
The Best Bet
The best bet here isn’t a secret. Paris Johnson is already penciled in as the starting left tackle and it will be up to Johnson to then put the finishing touches on that plan.
The depth chart behind him will be interesting because the Buckeyes may have more right tackles than left tackles. Is Dawand Jones the de facto No. 2 left tackle if Johnson goes down? That will depend on how spring, summer, and fall camp go.
Ohio State will go into the 2022 season feeling very good about their top six or seven offensive linemen, but the depth at tackle could become a concern if the unfortunate happens.
Aside from all of that possible drama, if all goes as planned, the Buckeyes could be replacing one of the nation’s best left tackles with one of the nation’s best left tackles.