Ohio State Buckeyes: New offensive line coach confident in starters, ability to develop depth when time comes

COLUMBUS -- Ohio State football coach Ryan Day said multiple times during spring football depth on the offensive line was among his top concerns for the 2022 Buckeyes.

A couple of weeks after spring work wrapped up, new offensive line coach Justin Frye expressed confidence things are going to work out.

“Well, we had a lot of guys – through other guys getting banged up or nicked up – get a lot of reps, which was good,” Frye said.

He highlighted Enokk Vimahi, a fourth-year junior, and third-year sophomore Jakob James as players who were able to benefit from extra work, but he confirmed it would have been nice to have Josh Fryar available as a potential third tackle behind projected starters Paris Johnson Jr. and Dawand Jones.

A third-year sophomore, Fryar has been identified as an up-and-comer by coaches and teammates, but he was still rehabbing an injury during the spring.

“Enokk was inside and took reps on both the left side and right side. We had a chance to see Jakob James get a lot of reps, which was good,” Frye said.

“You miss not having Josh for the spring, but you just keep developing the guys that we have and then we’ll go through fall camp and you’ll shake it out where you have eight, nine guys who you feel comfortable about putting in the game right there.”

A handful of linemen were not available for the spring game, but Frye said he expect his room to be at 100 percent when the Buckeyes convene for preseason practice in July.

“And that’s great too, when you have that much depth because when you’re not taking a rep, you can watch a rep on tape and get a mental rep, right?” Frye said. “And when you have enough guys to take all those reps, they’re getting a rest and you’re working and executing individually. You’re working and executing in practice, you’re not just getting through or having to save yourself because you’re limited on the amount of guys that are taking those reps so that’s going to be good for obviously the guys that missed the reps but for everybody as we come back.”

Frye appears to have a starting five set with Johnson and Jones at tackle, Donovan Jackson and Matt Jones at guard and Luke Wypler at center.

Both guards will be full-time starters for the first time, though Matt Jones has played well with the No. 1 group when given chances each of the past two seasons.

Johnson will be a first-time starter at tackle after starting last season at guard and holding his own.

“Paris is a highly skilled guy,” Frye said. “He’s going to blow the (NFL) combine out of the water. He’s gonna test well, he’s going to jump well, he’s going to do the interview phase well. I mean, this a high-level player. We just have to get him there to play like that because ultimately that’s what you’ve got to do. When you press play, you gotta play like a first-round draft pick.

“All these guys respond to (high expectations). Dawand on the other side, Luke Wypler on the inside. Matty Jones is kind of coming out of his shell. Like all these guys, they’re all just trying to maximize themselves.”

James is a candidate to back up Wypler (along with walk-on Toby Wilson), a healthy Fryar could be the third tackle, and Vimahi can play tackle or guard.

Then what?

That remains to be seen, but Frye expects to have Grant Toutant and Trey Leroux as third-year sophomores, redshirt freshmen Zen Michalski and Ben Christman plus true freshmen George Fitzpatrick (who took part in spring ball), Tegra Tshabola, Carson Hinzman and Avery Henry.

“Getting everybody back will be key because that creates competition behind some of these younger guys,” Frye said. “Like I said good quality reps and all those things you’re looking for.”

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