Now that spring football is over, it’s time to look back at exactly what we just saw. We’ll continue going over each position group for the next week discussing what was learned and what still needs to happen for the Buckeyes. Up next will be the Ohio State offensive line.
[Previous: Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Tight Ends | Defensive Tackle | Linebackers | Cornerbacks | Safeties]
Quick Position Overview
The Buckeyes return three full-time starters in right tackle Dawand Jones, center Luke Wypler, and left tackle Paris Johnson (who was the starting right guard last year). Part-time starter and full-time sixth man Matthew Jones returns and takes over at right guard for Johnson. Sophomore Donovan Jackson — a former five-star recruit — steps in at left guard for the departed Thayer Munford. The starters are pretty well set, but the depth chart behind them is still very much a work in progress.
Expectations Going In
The expectations going in were that Paris Johnson’s move to left guard would go relatively well, Donovan Jackson would pick things up quickly and compete with former starter Harry Miller at one guard spot, Luke Wypler would continue to grow as a leader at center, Matthew Jones would quietly be close to great at guard, and Dawand Jones would be back solidly at right tackle. Behind them, reserve upperclassmen Josh Fryar and Enokk Vimahi would be at the top of the second group of linemen. Anybody else who would emerge in that top group of twos would be a bit of a surprise.
Reality Coming Out
Harry Miller retired from football, making things pretty easy to predict in terms of the top five. Paris Johnson, Donovan Jackson, Luke Wypler, Matthew Jones, and Dawand Jones spent the spring growing as a collective unit and they all appear to be locked into those starting positions. Josh Fryar was expected to be the sixth or seventh man this spring, but he missed the entirety of camp due to injury.
While everything at the top went as expected, perhaps one surprise was true freshman George Fitzpatrick showing up at left tackle in the spring game and playing really well. He was the third left tackle in the game but didn’t look out of place against a talented group of pass rushers. It was good to see him making the most of enrolling early this past winter.
Can the Buckeyes find eight guys that they can trust? Ryan Day and the rest of the offensive coaches have some concerns about having enough guys who are “game ready.” Fortunately, this is a versatile group of starters, so no matter who gets injured, they can move guys around and then put Enokk Vimahi or Josh Fryar in the game. If Luke Wypler went down, Matt Jones would move over and be replaced by Vimahi or Fryar. If a tackle went down, Donovan Jackson probably moves and gets replaced inside by Vimahi or Fryar. Coaches want at least eight guys that they can work with, however, and it’s not clear if the Buckeyes have an eighth.
So Now What?
So now Paris Johnson gets back in the lab. Johnson didn’t have the best day in the spring game, but don’t put too much stock in what was just one practice. It was, however, one of 15 practices that he will study and learn from. This is a very big move for both Johnson and the Buckeyes. Playing left tackle is serious business, but it’s the business that Johnson has been in for a while now.
The depth here is an issue. We know they’re looking for a top eight, but in addition to that, the Buckeyes are still trying to find a full second-team offensive line. The depth chart below is basically an educated guess past Enokk Vimahi as the sixth man. Some of these guys didn’t get much work in the spring and many of them are still trying to find a home. It is a versatile group, however. Like Vimahi, Josh Fryar has experience at both tackle and guard, so he will likely end up in the two deep somewhere.
Are We Sure?
Are we sure that Donovan Jackson isn’t the future at left tackle? Even though it was just one series, it was Jackson who played left tackle after Paris Johnson’s day was done in the spring game. Offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson has talked about Jackson as a possibility at left tackle down the road — and even brought it up in passing as a one-time possibility this year. Tackle recruiting at Ohio State has been a concern for the last few years, but maybe when the Buckeyes signed the No. 1 guard in the 2021 class, they actually signed their future left tackle instead.
“I think the depth of the O-line is is a little bit of a concern. I’ve been pleased with the starters, in terms of the offensive line and some of the play there. But we still have a little bit of work to do there. And then we’re gonna get a new group of guys that come in here in the summer. … Three of them are offensive lineman, and those guys have to come in and get going fast because we’re going to have to continue to build that depth. You try to find five, then try to find six, and you try to find seven. We’ve got to find at least eight or nine that we feel good about putting in the game, which we did last year. We had that depth and we were able to roll guys and really have had that for a couple years when you think back. I don’t know if we have that right now coming out of the spring and that that’s a little bit concern.” — Ryan Day on his concerns about the offensive line.
|77 Paris Johnson | Junior | 6-6 315|
|Paris Johnson started all season at right guard last year, earning Second-Team All-Big Ten honors from the conference coaches. He finally gets his shot at left tackle and expectations are very, very high.|
|74 Donovan Jackson | Sophomore | 6-4 300 OR|
|Donovan Jackson is the starter at left guard but was also the first backup left tackle inserted during last month’s OSU spring game. He may not be 6-foot-6, but he is strong and mobile.|
|68 George Fitzpatrick | Freshman | 6-6 285|
|George Fitzpatrick enrolled early and played well as the No. 3 left tackle during the spring game. He is originally from Colorado where he was a High School All-American.|
|65 Zen Michalski | Redshirt Freshman | 6-7 305|
|Zen Michalski was a late bloomer in high school but somebody that Ohio State watched closely. He has potential but he was unfortunately limited this spring and did not play in the spring game.|
|74 Donovan Jackson | Sophomore | 6-4 300|
|Donovan Jackson found a niche last year as a true freshman and it helped prepare him for a starting spot this year. He had a very good spring at left guard. Expectations are high for him this year.|
|70 Josh Fryar | Redshirt Sophomore | 6-6 315|
|Unfortunately, Josh Fryar was out for the spring. He is expected to be one of the Buckeyes’ top seven or eight linemen and could have even bettered those expectations with a healthy spring.|
|54 Toby Wilson | Redshirt Freshman | 6-2 290|
|Toby Wilson is the rare walk-on offensive lineman that saw the field as a true freshman. This spring he was running with the twos at left guard.|
|NA Carson Hinzman | Freshman | 6-4 280|
|Carson Hinzman won’t arrive until this summer. He actually played guard in high school and knows the position, as opposed to the guys who play tackle in high school and then move inside in college.|
|53 Luke Wypler | Redshirt Sophomore | 6-3 300|
|Luke Wypler won the job last year as a redshirt freshman and played well. The offseason and spring were a continuation of his development as he becomes a leader of the offense.|
|55 Matthew Jones | Graduate | 6-4 310|
|Matthew Jones is probably the actual backup center should something happen to Luke Wypler. Jakob James could change that, however, with more work.|
|78 Jakob James | Redshirt Sophomore | 6-4 295|
|Jakob James was the No. 2 center for the spring but all expectations are that Matt Jones would just slide over if needed. Still, this was a productive spring for James who is getting better.|
|55 Matthew Jones | Graduate | 6-4 310|
|Matthew Jones was such a valuable and productive reserve last year that he was named Honorable Mention All-Big Ten. He should move up a couple of notches on the All-Big Ten team this year.|
|66 Enokk Vimahi | Redshirt Junior | 6-4 310|
|When Ryan Day and Kevin Wilson talked about needing to find a sixth, seventh, and eighth man on the offensive line this spring, it was Enokk Vimahi mentioned most often as the sixth man.|
|69 Trey Leroux | Redshirt Sophomore | 6-6 315|
|Trey Leroux was one of the several offensive linemen who missed the spring game. He is still trying to work his way into the two-deep somehow, somewhere.|
|79 Dawand Jones | Senior | 6-8 360|
|Dawand Jones was a Second-Team All-Big Ten selection last season and decided to return for his senior season. He could also return next year for a super senior season but don’t get your hopes up.|
|71 Ben Christman | Redshirt Freshman | 6-6 310 OR|
|Ben Christman was one of the linemen who missed the spring game. Like a lot of other guys, he can play inside or out depending on the need and the situation.|
|73 Grant Toutant | Redshirt Sophomore | 6-6 320 OR|
|Grant Toutant has had some difficulties in pass protection his last two springs but that’s not unusual for young offensive linemen.|
|NA Tegra Tshabola | Freshman | 6-5 340|
|Tegra Tshabola won’t arrive at Ohio State until this summer and he could end up inside or outside. He is probably not a left tackle, so he’s listed here as the first possibility they may try.|
|NA Avery Henry | Freshman | 6-6 305|
|Avery Henry won’t arrive until this summer either. He is one of those late bloomers that all coaches want to take a chance on. He had to work very hard to trim down, which shows real commitment.|