The last position on Ohio State’s offensive line settled in preseason camp was right tackle.
Days before the season opener, Branden Bowen edged Nicholas Petit-Frere for the starting spot. Coaches cited the experience of Bowen, a fifth-year senior who also had a feel-good story, recovering from a leg injury that cost him all of last season.
The first three games have seen him make a quick adjustment.
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Bowen has been arguably the Buckeyes’ best pass-blocker for quarterback Justin Fields. He has not allowed any pressures, which include sacks, hits and hurries, according to data tracked by Pro Football Focus. Ohio State’s other four starting offensive linemen have given up between three to six pressures.
Teammates credit Bowen’s fundamentals.
“He just does a great job of being patient and using his hands,” said right guard Wyatt Davis, a redshirt sophomore.
Before he suffered his leg injury, Bowen began the season in 2017 as the starter at right guard, and the 6-foot-7 lineman had appeared in several high-profile matchups, including against Oklahoma.
“He already showed he belongs to be a starter,” Davis said.
Coach Ryan Day said he wasn’t surprised by Bowen’s start to the season. He noted that he had been fully cleared and remained healthy.
“It's not like we were expecting him to take longer to get going,” Day said. “He came off his injury, he had his surgery last year, and he's 100 percent.”
Day challenged Bowen to maintain the productive start through the rest of the season, with the Big Ten schedule heating up after the team’s final nonconference game Saturday against Miami University.
“He’s playing strong, and as we start getting into tougher games and the season wears on and his body starts to get worn down a little bit, that's going to be a big challenge for Branden,” Day said, “and see if he can withstand the whole season and stay healthy and take care of his body. So far, so good.”