So, the summer has kicked off here in Columbus. The sun is shining, the air has a nice warmth, and training camp is just around the corner. The Buckeyes have filled out their roster throughout the offseason and have made some noticeable improvements. Aside from the quarterback position, the offensive line presents the most questions for the team’s title chances, so let’s talk about the state of the O-line as of May 22nd.
If you were to hold a gun to my head, I’d say the line will go something like this:
LT: Josh Fryar
LG: Donovan Jackson
C: Carson Hinzman
RG: Matt Jones
RT: Josh Simmons
There is an interesting mix of experience and youth with this group. Jones and Jackson are obviously the veterans of the group, with Fryar having a little bit of experience as well. But, I would say the unit as a whole is a little green. The right tackle spot was clearly a concern so Simmons is the most interesting piece here, in my opinion. The San Diego State transfer has three years of eligibility remaining, but I think he is probably the best option for the team at right tackle. He has experience playing at the big boy level and he has prototype size for this level.
If I had to make a guess, I’d say the Guard-Center-Guard is pretty well set in stone. Hinzman seemed to have a stronghold on the center spot throughout the spring, which means Jackson and Jones most likely get to stay in their spots. Truthfully, I think this interior can be as good as there is in college football. The tackles are certainly more interesting. As I said, I think Simmons ultimately starts at right tackle, but we will see if Tegra Tshabola or if Zen Michalski can bounce back from his injury in the spring to take a spot. I would write Fryar in as the left tackle in pencil as of right now. I don’t think he played well enough last year to have his name in ink, but I think he’s most likely going to be the starter, unless they do something completely different and bump Jackson to tackle. Still, you make it a competition no matter what and make Fryar earn it.
Truthfully, I am mostly looking forward to seeing if Luke Montgomery can play his way into being the sixth guy by season’s end. I know it’s really rare for a freshman OL to play, let alone start or be the sixth guy, but I think Montgomery might have the most raw talent of the tackles so we’ll see if he can jumpstart his development.
George Fitzpatrick is also an interesting one. As Nevadabuck reported this week, he is VERY strong and he has the big frame that you want. But, is he ready for big boy ball yet? We’ll find out soon enough.
It is going to be a really big job for Justin Frye to get these guys playing well together. But, the good news is that they do not need to be ready to go beat Michigan and Georgia today. There is a lot of time, so no need to panic over anything.
Still, I want to urge people to be patient with this group. It probably won’t look perfect right out of the gate, and there is no Paris Johnson at left tackle. I think running something other than stretch (i.e., gap schemes…for the love of God) in the early part of the season will help these guys get into rhythm. This will be a large line size wise, with very good athleticism in the interior, so I would like to see them run a lot of counter and power with these guys to get them moving people.
Obviously we need to see them in game action, but I do think you can win with this group. McCord or Devin Brown can help them out by getting the ball out quick and the staff can help them by letting them do what they do well. The most important thing will be getting these guys confident. Fortunately, most of the games they play will probably be a little easier than practice, because this D-line is going to be NASTY.