Wednesday began Ohio State’s foray into the daily grind of fall camp. Twenty-five practices only tell part of the story, but that’s where most of the plot will unfold. Day one was a glimpse, day two will be behind closed doors, but reporters will be back on hand for a quick look at practice on day three this Friday.
There were definitely items of interest that came out of practice number one, as well as the ensuing media session with Buckeyes’ head coach Ryan Day.
The most notable of the news items, however, was that senior defensive end Tyler Friday appears to be out for most of the season. Day didn’t want to give too much information as to Friday’s injury, but did say it will be a while before Friday is back on the field.
A few hours after Day met with reporters, Friday shared a message on social media saying “Gotta control what you can and make the most of it. Live, learn, and grow. I’ll be back in ’22.”
While Day didn’t go so far as to say Friday was out for the season, the tone certainly wasn’t optimistic. Though it might be worth noting that Friday still has a redshirt year, so if he was able to play later in the year, he could technically help the Buckeyes in their final four games and still keep that redshirt.
Friday has been a valuable member of the defensive end rotation for the last two seasons, starting five games in his career. In his absence, the Buckeyes need some young players to step up. It was true freshman Jack Sawyer running with the second group in place of Friday on Wednesday.
Right now that four-man rotation still looks pretty solid with Zach Harrison, Tyreke Smith, Javontae Jean-Baptiste, and Sawyer. Since he signed, Buckeye fans — and coaches — have been clamoring to see what Sawyer could do with a good number of snaps. Now they’re gonna get to find out.
Darrion Henry-Young, Jacolbe Cowan, and Cormontae Hamilton all now have at least a year under their respective belts as well. This, of course, will also open up some room for true freshman JT Tuimoloau, who only arrived on campus last month. Tuimoloau was one of the top three prospects in the 2021 class and there is a lot expected of him, but defensive line coach Larry Johnson will still ease him into things.
Reporters will talk to Johnson and the defensive line on Tuesday, August 17th, so there will certainly be some interesting topics to discuss.
The Ohio State Position Battle That Everyone’s Talking About
It’s impossible to write about Ohio State or the Buckeyes’ fall camp in any fashion without discussing the most talked about position battle in all of college football, so let’s just get to it.
Josh Fryar vs. Matthew Jones for the starting left guard spot is going to be an interesting one to watch this month.
Fryar is a redshirt freshman, while Jones is a fourth-year junior. Jones has played in the past and played well, but in one snippet of action open to the media on Wednesday, it was Fryar who was repping at left guard with the ones.
With junior Harry Miller at center and the presumed favorite, the left guard job is really the only open position on the offensive line. (This won’t stop Luke Wypler from doing everything he can to impress at center, by the way.)
Fryar was a bit of a surprise last year, working many practices with the twos at tackle. Jones, of course, started three games last year (Michigan State, Clemson, and Alabama), impressing many.
This is a battle that may go the entire length of camp, especially when you consider what Ryan Day has said about both of them.
This is what he had to say about Josh Fryar on Wednesday: “Josh has talent. He needed to kind of change his body. He could do it for one or two plays, but then his consistency broke down in the spring. So this 11 weeks is important for him to get himself into shape. Again, we’ll look at the film and see once we get the pads on if he’s made that next step. But he certainly has the ability. You could put on a highlight tape of him from the spring of probably 30 plays and you’d say he’s an All-Big Ten player. But then I could give you another clip where he looked like he was exhausted and made a lot of mistakes. He certainly has the ability.”
And this is what he had to say about Matthew Jones at Big Ten Media Days last month: “One thing about Matt is, he’s very athletic and very talented. If you put 10 clips of film on, he looks like a first-round draft pick. And then then there’s 10 plays where he’s maybe not as consistent. So he has the ability, it’s now can he continue to stay focused and have consistent play? Because if he can, he could be one of the best offensive linemen on the team and certainly in the conference.”
Palaie Gaoteote Is In a Holding Pattern
The only thing new on USC transfer linebacker Palaie Gaoteote’s eligibility status is that Ohio State should hear back from the NCAA some time next week.
“He’s part of the program. He’s part of the 117. I think it’s another week or so before we really get an answer on it,” Day said.
Gaoteote is not yet on scholarship, but he’ll be put on scholarship if he becomes eligible. With his status up in the air right now, the Buckeyes can’t afford to give him too many reps. They need those reps for the players they know will be playing this season.
“It puts us in a pinch,” Day said. “So we can’t throw him in really with the ones or the twos. It doesn’t make sense because that’s wasting reps if he’s not available. So we’ll kind of see what happens. He’s certainly going to get reps but to put him in with the ones and the twos right now doesn’t makes sense because you don’t know if he’s going to be eligible or not.”
The linebackers will meet with reporters next Thursday. By then there should be much more to talk about regarding Gaoteote and all of the Buckeye linebackers.
Speaking of the Linebackers
On day one of fall camp, it was sophomore Cody Simon with the ones at middle linebacker. That follows along with how the spring went, but part of the reason for that was the foot injury suffered by senior Dallas Gant. Gant went into the winter as the presumed favorite to win the starting Mike linebacker spot, but the injury clearly set him back.
Not only did the injury take Gant out of the picture, it gave Simon an opportunity to play more and make his mark, which he has done. It will be interesting to see if Gant is among the handful of Buckeyes — like cornerback Cam Brown — who are being brought back slowly from injury and are currently on “pitch counts.”
Regardless, the competition isn’t over yet according to Ryan Day.
“Nothing’s been decided yet,” he said. “Really, the way we look at it is it’s practice number 16 coming off of spring practice. And Cody had a very good spring. Where it goes and stuff, we’ll see.”
Simon was seemingly able to build a lead. We’ll see if he can keep it. And even if he does, you’re still going to see Dallas Gant on the field in some capacity.
Not So Nosy For Haskell Garrett and Taron Vincent
With the departure of last year’s starting nose tackle Tommy Togiai to the NFL, there was talk in the spring about possibly moving one of Haskell Garrett or Taron Vincent from three technique to the nose. The players said they’d be willing and able to do it, and defensive line coach Larry Johnson agreed.
However, when speaking with reporters on Wednesday, Ryan Day said they like both guys right where they are. Sure, they could move around and they have looked at that, but they’d like to keep Vincent and Garrett right where they are.
So what does this mean? One, it means that the Buckeyes are going to have a pretty incredible rotation at three tech, but even more importantly it means the coaches like what they’ve got at nose tackle.
Seniors Antwuan Jackson and Jerron Cage have both been around forever and both grew into roles last year. Those roles will grow even larger this year.
The need for a full-time nose tackle rotation will also likely be lessened this year by the Rushmen package. It also doesn’t hurt that the Buckeyes will only play a couple of legitimate power running teams this year.
All in all, however, keeping Vincent and Garrett right where they are is a tremendous sign for what’s going on at nose tackle.
But camp just started, so we’ll see if things stay as optimistic as they are at the moment.