Harry Miller arrived at Ohio State last year as one of the top-ranked high school centers in the nation and the likely heir apparent to Josh Myers, who anchors the offensive line.
But he could find playing time at another position in 2020.
Miller lined up at left guard Monday when the Buckeyes opened spring practice at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, taking over at the spot vacated by Jonah Jackson. Throughout the workout, he split first-team repetitions with Matthew Jones, a redshirt sophomore who was the backup last season.
The move stemmed from a desire by coach Ryan Day to put the five best linemen on the field together rather than specialize by position. Though Miller spent his freshman season as the backup center, he still might be one of the five best overall.
"We’re expecting big things from him," Day said.
Ohio State returns three starting offensive linemen, including right guard Wyatt Davis, left tackle Thayer Munford and Myers, leaving openings at left guard and right tackle.
Day framed the search to fill the remaining starting spots as one to uncover the fourth- and fifth-best offensive linemen on the team.
If Miller can successfully slide into a new position, Day considered his intelligence as a contributing factor.
"Harry's a high functioning football player," Day said. "He's got a good IQ playing at center. That really helps in terms of identifying things early on. You have to make a lot of calls. So I don't think it's going to move too fast for him. But he does have to step up because we need guys to step up in that group."
The competition at right tackle featured Nicholas Petit-Frere, a redshirt sophomore, splitting first-team reps with Paris Johnson Jr., one of the freshmen who enrolled early this semester to participate in spring practice.
Petit-Frere is the favorite for the job. He’s a former five-star recruit with two years of experience in the program. But Johnson, a physically advanced underclassman, figures to merit some consideration, too.
"He's very, very talented," Day said. "He's got a lot of ability. And if he's the best player, he's gonna play."
Saunders still on hold
Ohio State is still waiting on a resolution from the NCAA about receiver C.J. Saunders’ petition for a sixth season of eligibility.
Day said he expected to have a "better idea" on his status in April. As the Buckeyes had their first practice, Saunders was with the team, though huddled on the sideline with other players rehabilitating injuries.
Saunders missed last season because of a knee injury, prompting him to seek another year.
No way back for Riep, Wint
Day said there is no possibility that former defensive backs Amir Riep and Jahsen Wint will return to the team. They were dismissed last month after arrests on charges of felony rape and kidnapping.
A Franklin County grand jury indicted Riep and Wint on Feb. 21, and they face 33 years in prison and registration as sex offenders if convicted.
Asked if his stance might change if the players were exonerated of the charges, Day said, "No."
Five players were listed as unavailable for spring practice on a status report released by the team, including receiver Kamryn Babb, running back Marcus Crowley, offensive guard Gavin Cupp, safety Josh Proctor and Saunders.
Among the group of limited players was defensive end Jonathon Cooper, who appeared in only four games last season because of a high ankle sprain, plus other possible starters such as cornerback Cameron Brown and linebacker Baron Browning and returning starting cornerback Shaun Wade.