[This is the fourth in a series looking at each of Ohio State’s key departures and how the Buckeyes will look to replace them. Up next, right guard Wyatt Davis.]
When Wyatt Davis signed with Ohio State as a 5-star prospect, there were some who thought he could step right into the two-deep for the Buckeyes and even possibly start. That didn’t happen, however, as Davis redshirted as a true freshman and then spent most of the 2018 season as a backup. He eventually cracked the starting lineup late in his redshirt freshman season due to injury. Once he did, he never looked back.
Davis was a First-Team All-American at right guard for the Buckeyes in both 2019 and 2020. He turned pro early after nearly doing the same one year earlier. By waiting an extra year, however, his Ohio State coaches are better prepared for his departure and expected all along for this to be his final season with the Buckeyes.
Because of that, they were better able to plan for his replacement. Planning and replacing, however, are two very different things.
In reality, the Buckeyes are very likely going to be replacing both starting guards from 2020 as left guard Harry Miller is expected to move to center. So as we move through this, feel free to apply all of this to the soon-to-be-open left guard spot as well.
Despite the openings, the top two candidates are the same two players who were called upon at these spots in 2020. Matthew Jones started at left guard twice this past season and played very well. The next guard in line was true freshman tackle Paris Johnson (pictured at left guard below), who also played well. Johnson is the heir apparent at left tackle when Thayer Munford leaves, which makes you wonder if they’d rather have Johnson as an option at left guard rather than right guard.
Rising junior Dawand Jones will be a player to watch as well. He can play four spots on the offensive line, but his greatest value may be his versatility. Ryan Jacoby will also be a third-year player for the Buckeyes but has not yet turned his experience into playing time. Enokk Vimahi played in three games on offensive line in 2020 and will likely increase that in 2021.
Luke Wypler was a true freshman in 2020 and is in line to be the next starter at center when Harry Miller leaves, but having a future at center hasn’t stopped anybody else from getting work at guard over the years. Classmate Jakob James is also a name to keep in mind. Incoming freshman Ben Christman could end up at tackle or guard and is now on campus.
Five-star prospect Donovan Jackson arrives this summer and is the No. 1 offensive guard in the 2021 class. He’s got a lot of guys ahead of him, however, but he brings heavy expectations.
With two spots open, there will likely be plenty of mixing and matching to see who fits best (and where). With Matt Jones heading into his fourth year as a Buckeye, he may not need as many snaps as everyone else, but if they think they know who they want starting, will those guys then get the largest amount of the reps?
The good news is that there will only be one new guy in the mix this spring, meaning offensive line coach Greg Studrawa already has a handle on what most of his guys can do. He already knows their respective baselines, so any improvement will be easier to assess.
This spring, there may be six guys getting the majority of the action at guard because guys like Luke Wypler (center) and Dawand Jones (tackle) will have to provide depth at their current positions. However, this offensive line will be comprised of the Buckeyes’ five best offensive linemen, so if either Jones or Wypler can get into that number, maybe they end up replacing Wyatt Davis at right guard.
The best bet here is to have Matthew Jones at one guard spot and Paris Johnson at the other. Johnson is the most ballyhooed offensive lineman Ohio State has landed in a very long time and he sure looked the part when given an opportunity this past year. Johnson, meanwhile, was solid as a starter when he was on the field. They were the top two reserve guards at the end of the season, so it holds that they are the best bets to win the job(s) at this point.
There is still plenty of time for somebody else to stake a claim. Winter workouts have allowed depth chart moves in the past. Then you get to spring camp and summer workouts and then fall camp. There are any number of things that can happen between now and the Buckeyes’ season opener at Minnesota.
The most likely option at this point, however, is ending up with Matthew Jones and Paris Johnson on either side of Harry Miller. Exactly which sides they will each be on will be determined at a later date.