Injury gives Alabi opportunity to start at left tackle

Tim May
Josh Alabi performed well on the offensive line when pressed into duty against Maryland. [Adam Cairns/Dispatch]

PASADENA, Calif. — Josh Alabi expressed sympathy for Ohio State teammate and fellow tackle Thayer Munford, who will miss the Rose Bowl against Washington on Tuesday because of injury, but Alabi couldn’t hide his excitement either.

He’s going to make his first start, at left tackle, and in the bowl that is the “granddaddy of them all.”

“I’m very excited,” Alabi said Sunday. “It’s a blessing. I just thank God.”

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It won’t be his first major appearance for the Buckeyes, though. When Munford went down in the first quarter at Maryland on Nov. 17, Alabi got the call. He was thrust into an unexpected scoring duel in which every possession was critical in a 52-51 overtime win for the Buckeyes.

Munford returned the next week for the win over Michigan and the week after for the Big Ten championship game, a win over Northwestern. His knee injury finally resulted in him needing to sit out the bowl game, but offensive line coach Greg Studrawa did not panic, knowing how Alabi played against the Terrapins.

“I’m confident because of what happened at Maryland,” Studrawa said. “When you have a backup guy, you can get them ready in practice as much as you want. (But) when his number is called in a game, and the game’s on the line like it was at Maryland, how he performs — that’s the test.

“As coach (Urban) Meyer always says, that’s what we call competitive excellence. When your number is called and you go into the game, what do you do? You either do it or you fail. He passed that test.”

It’s a rite of passage for any college player.

“Now (he has) the confidence of the coaches, the confidence of his peers — when Dwayne (Haskins Jr.) goes, ‘What a great job, man, thanks,’ that kid’s confidence goes through the roof,” Studrawa said.

The lesson was valuable, but it would have been a flop had he gone in unprepared.

“Honestly, the preparation never really changed,” Alabi said. “Ever since last year, I tried to prepare like I was starting because I never really knew when the opportunity would come. Just like that, the opportunity came.”

Next DB up

With Jimmy Lake as defensive coordinator and secondary coach, Washington has built a reputation for being a training ground for defensive backs with NFL aspirations. The Huskies had three DBs taken in the second round of the 2017 draft alone. So the transition from one group to the next is nothing new, senior safety Jojo McIntosh said.

“We like to say, ‘Taking the flag,’” McIntosh said. “So you guys will always leave every year, but the next guy is always ready. We've got some freshmen right now that could play today if they wanted.

“So we always got guys. Coach Lake does a good job of recruiting good guys that are ready to play. I think we do a really good job of just filling in.”

Studrawa staying?

Ryan Day already is in the midst of deciding on the makeup of his coaching staff after Meyer retires. Studrawa seemed confident Sunday of his position.

“I’ve been talking with Ryan, we’ve been planning for spring, things like that,” Studrawa said. “So I certainly am (confident). But obviously I understand he is the head coach, as well.”