As a first-time starting offensive tackle, Thayer Munford can use someone to lean on.
In Isaiah Prince, he has that person.
“The older brother I never had before,” Munford said last week during Ohio State’s spring practice. “(We) get into little arguments all the time about certain plays, but at the end of the day, we love each other.”
Both have unlikely stories. Prince has matured into a respected leader two years after his play was so criticized that “much-maligned” could have been his first name. Munford, well, he was a long shot to make it to Ohio State at all.
Nothing is set in stone yet, but Prince is making the switch from right tackle to left tackle as a senior while Munford is getting first-team reps at Prince’s previous position as a sophomore.
Prince played right tackle throughout high school in Maryland as well as college, but with Jamarco Jones graduated, coaches asked him to switch. It’s a spot he has quietly coveted, but he acknowledged the challenge.
“It’s different,” Prince said. “It’s like writing with your right hand and then switching and writing with your left. You just have to get used to it. The more reps you take, the better you get.”
Prince was thrust into a starting spot in 2016, and his inconsistency was glaring. The more he struggled, the more his confidence waned.
“My first year starting, obviously I had my ups and downs,” Prince said. “I think that year taught me the most in my career. I went on to my junior year last year and took the things I learned from the year before and just tried not to think so much in games and just play.”
He was much-improved last year and earned third-team all-Big Ten recognition by league coaches. With Jones and center Billy Price gone, Prince is now a leader.
“The improvements he has made and how much he has matured over the last couple years is really unbelievable,” senior center Brady Taylor said. “We really bonded right when he came in so I’ve seen it firsthand, watching him grow. He’s got a lot of respect from people in the room. We really look up to him.
“His work ethic — he totally changed. He’s one of our hardest workers, always getting extra work. He’ll definitely have a great season this year.”
While Prince was enduring his on-field struggles two years ago, Munford was trying to get his life settled. He had a tumultuous high school career that included a transfer as a senior from Cincinnati LaSalle to Massillon Washington, where he lived with his coach.
Even after Munford lost 50 pounds and improved his grades, Buckeyes offensive line coach Greg Studrawa had to persuade coach Urban Meyer to add him to the 2017 recruiting class.
“A lot of credit to a lot of people — his family, and Nate (Moore), the coach at Massillon, and his family for taking him in, and coach Stud for sticking by him after we denied him, denied him, denied him,” Meyer said Monday. “He’s going to be a very good player here. He’s very consistent, one of our more consistent offensive linemen.”
Munford saw emergency action against Michigan last year after making a surprising rise up the depth chart. Now he is getting his shot to start. But the hard journey to reach this point is never far from his mind.
“I still have that chip on my shoulder,” Munford said. “After all the stuff I went through the past few years, there’s nothing better than to have that chip on my shoulder.”
The same applies to Prince after overcoming his 2016 struggles.
“Those lessons have taught me that when things get hard, keep fighting, keep going hard,” he said. “It taught me how to work and get through things. It made me who I am.”