Football

Spring Gleaning: Buckeyes Still Looking For a Starting Five Up Front

Now that spring football is over, it’s time to look back at exactly what we just saw. Over the last two weeks we have recapped every position on the Ohio State football team but one. The series now comes to an end with a look at how things went this spring for the Buckeyes’ offensive line.

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Quick Position Overview

Ohio State returns the best pair of starting tackles in the nation in Thayer Munford and Nicholas Petit-Frere. Starting left guard Harry Miller also returns but his situation this year is still to be determined. Sophomore Paris Johnson will start out at guard before moving to tackle in 2022. A fifth starter will need to be found and it looks like that will come down to redshirt freshman Luke Wypler or fourth-year junior Matt Jones at center. The Buckeyes have 15 scholarship offensive linemen and have eight or nine guys they would be quite comfortable playing this year.

Expectations Going In

The expectation going into the spring was that junior Harry Miller would take over at center and that the Buckeyes would need to find a pair of starting guards. Matt Jones and junior Dawand Jones both played well in limited opportunities last season, which had many believing they would both be competing for starting spots this spring. It was also presumed that Paris Johnson would be lining up somewhere in the top five by the end of spring.

Reality Coming Out

The reality coming out is that Harry Miller was out for the spring recovering from a medical procedure, so any thought of him taking over at center was put on hold for the time being. Thayer Munford and Nicholas Petit-Frere remained at tackles, though offensive line coach Greg Studrawa did admit to thinking about moving one of them inside so that Paris Johnson could play tackle. Instead, Johnson opened spring at right guard and it looks like he’ll stay there this year. Matt Jones opened up as the No. 1 at center but it looked at the end like it was Luke Wypler running with the first team. Dawand Jones and redshirt freshman Josh Fryar played well enough to give Studrawa confidence that either would be okay if called upon.

Any Surprises?

Luke Wypler was a bit of a surprise this spring. The five best offensive linemen are going to play this season and it was pretty well assumed that the top five guys leaving spring would by Thayer Munford, Harry Miller, Paris Johnson, Matt Jones, and Nicholas Petit-Frere. And there were plenty who would have put Dawand Jones in that mix as well. Nobody bothered to put Wypler’s name in the running and it looks like we were all wrong. He left spring working with the ones at center, which was something he set out to do back in January. There’s still a long way to go before he’s starting at center for the Buckeyes, but this was a necessary step if his goal was going to be reached.

Unanswered Question

What is going to happen at center? Will it be a two-man battle between Luke Wypler and Matt Jones, or will Harry Miller make it a triple-threat match? And if they do put three guys there, how long will they let that go before they move one of them to guard so that guy can compete for the open job there?

So Now What?

So now Greg Studrawa gets to bask in an offensive line room of his own making. But he better not bask long because Thayer Munford and Nicholas Petit-Frere will be gone next year and Harry Miller and Matt Jones won’t be too far behind. Adding 5-star offensive guard Donovan Jackson this summer will help down the road, but the process never stops.

One Concern

There are going to be at least two new starters on the offensive line this year and there are almost always growing pains with new starters up front. With a new starting quarterback, it only takes one weak link on the offensive line to throw an entire offense into a tailspin. While expectations are high for the eventual five starters, nothing is ever definite. Expectations were high for Harry Miller last year and he struggled at times. He’s a year more experienced now and will be better off for that experience. But what kind of struggles will Luke Wypler or Matt Jones or Paris Johnson or Dawand Jones experience?

Are We Sure?

Are we sure there isn’t room in this offense for Dawand Jones to be an all-time tackle eligible guy?

Quotable

“Oh, I couldn’t be more excited. The state of the room when I got here, I had for the first two years, I had five people. I stayed up at night because if somebody went down, I was like, ‘oh boy, we better get the punt team ready.’ That was my feeling. And to have that depth back in the room…showed at Michigan State last year. We lose those guys the night before the game. We didn’t lose those guys a week before the game, you know? We lost a couple of those COVID guys right away. And for those kids to jump in there, and play like that against the defense like that, that’s a testament to what we’ve done. And that to me, those kids were ready to go. They knew through the whole COVID thing at any minute somebody was gonna have to jump in there. But it wasn’t tested and proven until that point. And when they jump in there that gives all those guys in that room confidence that when my number’s called, or how about if I just go challenge this guy? ‘Thayer Munford is pretty good. But how about if I go beat him out?’ And now that’s in that room. So all the other guys now, when you go to practice, you better be at your best. Because if you’re not, that guy is very well capable of doing the job as well. And that’s what it should be when you’ve got an offensive line room that has depth and those things can happen and still instill confidence in everybody around them.” — Offensive line coach Greg Studrawa on the state of his offensive line room.

Depth Chart

Left Tackle

75 Thayer Munford | Graduate Senior | 6-6 321
Thayer Munford returned because he wanted to get his degree. He also wanted to give scouts another year of healthy play on tape and show them that he’s the best tackle in the nation.
66 Enokk Vimahi | Redshirt Sophomore | 6-4 298
Enokk Vimahi played guard last year but found himself with the twos at tackle. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see him move back to guard next year, if not sooner.
73 Grant Toutant | Redshirt Freshman | 6-6 315
It isn’t a great sign for the young tackles that Enokk Vimahi moved from guard to tackle. Grant Toutant still has some aging to do, which is not a surprise.
65 Zen Michalski | Freshman | 6-7 295
Zen Michalski isn’t expected to play this year, but getting to Ohio State early is still going to help that process along.

Left Guard

76 Harry Miller | Junior | 6-4 315
Harry Miller played injured last year, which may have contributed to some of his struggles along the way. He still graded out a champion in half of his starts.
70 Josh Fryar | Redshirt Freshman | 6-6 315
Josh Fryar made some moves last year as a true freshman at tackle, but played guard this spring and may eventually emerge as the No. 3 at the position.
64 Jack Jamieson | Senior | 6-1 290
Jack Jamieson is a walk-on who has been around a while. He was in with the twos at left guard this spring because everybody was moved up one spot without Harry Miller in the lineup.
69 Trey Leroux | Redshirt Freshman | 6-7 310
Trey Leroux showed up at left guard in the spring game. The hope when he was recruited was that he could eventually be a tackle. That may or may not still be in the plans.

Center

53 Luke Wypler | Redshirt Freshman | 6-3 300 OR
Luke Wypler started out with the twos at center this spring but eventually worked his way to the top of the heap with the ones. Matt Jones was dealing with injuries, however.
55 Matt Jones | Redshirt Junior | 6-4 316 OR
Matt Jones was impressive late last year when he he stepped in for an injured Harry Miller. He was up and down this spring, thanks in part to not being totally healthy.
76 Harry Miller | Junior | 6-4 315
Just because Luke Wypler emerged at center this spring doesn’t mean that Harry Miller won’t get a shot at the spot in preseason camp.
67 Jakob James | Redshirt Freshman | 6-4 295
Few teams can go four-deep at center, and while Jakob James may not be ready this year, he’s at least being groomed to possibly be the next in line.

Right Guard

77 Paris Johnson | Sophomore | 6-6 315
Paris Johnson is too talented to have him sit for two years before getting a starting job, so they gave him a shot at guard this spring and the coaches liked what they saw.
64 Ryan Jacoby | Redshirt Sophomore | 6-4 305
Ryan Jacoby has yet to see the field in a game for the Buckeyes, but that should change this season. Many times, the third year is when linemen finally put it together enough to play.

Right Tackle

78 Nicholas Petit-Frere | Redshirt Junior | 6-5 315
Nicholas Petit-Frere was fantastic last year and should be again this year. Nothing he showed this spring would be a concern for anybody other than defensive ends.
79 Dawand Jones | Junior | 6-8 360
There were fans who were hoping Dawand Jones would get a shot at one of the open guard spots but he has too much value as the third tackle.
71 Ben Christman | Freshman | 6-6 312
Ben Christman enrolled early and didn’t look completely lost this spring. He will be able to redshirt this season and compete for a spot somewhere on the line next year.