With most of his starting lineup appearing to be determined, Ohio State offensive line coach Greg Studrawa can concentrate on picking a right tackle while keeping an eye on the future.
He seems to like what he sees in both cases.
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“It's absolutely awesome, and that’s how it should be,” Studrawa said of having more players than he needs to fill out the two-deep plus a six-man class of rising high school seniors on the way next year. "That's how it should be. You should have athletic young cats that are ready to go take over. We had that lab for a lot of those guys that were here before that. Those guys are gone now. We're building that depth to be exactly where it should be at Ohio State.”
As for who is in place: Josh Myers and Wyatt Davis, both five-star recruits in the class of 2017, look set at center and right guard, respectively, after finishing last season strong.
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Jonah Jackson was penciled in at left guard upon announcing he would transfer from Rutgers, and he has impressed since arriving during the summer.
Thayer Munford, the only returning starter on the line, is being worked back in slowly after missing spring to recover from surgery on an unidentified injury, so he is splitting time with senior Josh Alabi at left tackle.
That leaves right tackle, where senior Branden Bowen and redshirt freshman Nicholas Petit-Frere are battling for the No. 1 spot.
With Bowen aiming to regain the form that made him a starter two years ago before a gruesome leg injury that cut short his sophomore year and Petit-Frere showing evidence of why he was a five-star recruit, there may not be a wrong answer there.
“Last year we had to get his weight up,” Studrawa said of the 6-5, 295-pound Petit-Frere. “That was a bit of a struggle at times to get him up to where he needed to be. He's there now. I mean every single lift he had in the weight room is up 20-25 pounds, so he’s big and strong and physical now. He's had the time to learn the position, and now he's starting to take off.”
Meanwhile, Harry Miller has been the talk of camp, looking far advanced for a freshman who just arrived from Buford, Ga., in June.
“Harry being a center and Harry being Harry — he just learns,” said Studrawa, who regularly held virtual meetings with the five-star center via video chat in the spring to educate him on the offense. “He’s so far ahead mentally. He's out there making the checks today in a blitz pickup period and I don't think I've ever had a freshman do that. Ever.”
Studrawa also praised junior Gavin Cupp for solidifying a post in the two-deep, but there was a gleam in his eye when the conversation shifted farther into the future.
Although Studrawa can’t talk about the members of the 2020 Ohio State offensive line recruiting class by name, he can confirm he’s excited to see them in scarlet and gray in the future.
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Parris Johnson Jr., a five-star prospect from Cincinnati Princeton, headlines the group which also consists of four-stars Luke Wypler and Grant Toutant and three-stars Josh Fryar, Jakob James and Trey Leroux.
With Miller and fellow 2019 signees Enokk Vimahi, Dawand Jones and Ryan Jacoby already in the fold, Studrawa expects to have a strong nucleus to build around for the future.
“I don't know how much you've been out there, but you've watched Harry Miller perform with the (second team) against our defense as a true freshman,” Studrawa said. "Enokk came in here at 270 pounds, he's 295 right now, and wow, does he look like a million bucks, and Dawand Jones, I mean you can't miss him. He's as big as a house. And he runs around at 375 pounds runs around like an athletic guy.
“Those guys I can't even get in the twos to get reps right now. Then with the guys coming in, I’m so excited about those guys.”
He confirmed the long-term vision for the offensive line is as clear as he has ever seen, a significant fact not only to someone whose job depends specifically on making sure that is the case but also anyone who remembers annual debates about whether or not Jim Tressel was reserving enough spots for The Big Uglies in his recruiting classes.
Safe to say much has changed since Michael Jordan’s somewhat surprising decision to enter the NFL Draft a year early left Ohio State with one starter and nine scholarship linemen returning in January.
"It's crazy,” said Myers, who committed to Ohio State in January 2015 as a sophomore at Miamisburg. "We didn't have very many guys in the spring, just number-wise so, I'm very thankful that they're here now. It's crazy.”