OSU offensive line starting to take shape
Only one of Greg Studrawa’s players was a full-time starter in 2018, and that offensive lineman missed spring practice rehabbing from an injury.
Studrawa knows how most college football line coaches facing his scenario would feel a month before the start of training camp.
“I think it’d be somewhere between panic and whatever is worse than panic,” the Ohio State assistant coach said.
But here’s the key: Studrawa laughed as he said it, complete with his characteristic raspiness.
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“I’m not worried at all,” he said.
His faith will need to be proved true. Much of the attention regarding the Ohio State offense since Ryan Day took over as coach has been on quarterback Justin Fields and whether he can live up to his considerable hype. But Fields won’t have a chance to if the reconstituted offensive line doesn’t develop quickly.
The Buckeyes lost four starters from last year’s team: seniors Isaiah Prince, Demetrius Knox and Malcolm Pridgeon, as well as junior Michael Jordan, who left for the NFL. Left tackle Thayer Munford, who will be a junior, missed the spring because of a back injury.
Studrawa said that Munford will be fully ready for training camp and is even hungrier after missing spring practice.
“I watched him run the other day, and it was unbelievable,” he said. “He’s bigger, he’s stronger and he looks quicker.”
At the other positions, the closest to locks are Josh Myers at center and Wyatt Davis at right guard, Studrawa said. Myers made a smooth transition from guard last year and gradually earned Studrawa’s trust as a backup.
“The whole idea when you put somebody at that center position is he has to embrace it and want to do it,” Studrawa said. “He has to embrace it. He did that last year.”
Davis started the Big Ten championship game and Rose Bowl after Knox was injured in the Michigan game. He began to deliver on the promise that made him a five-star recruit.
“He’s now meticulous in the little things,” Studrawa said. “That’s what Wyatt lacked going into the season last year.”
Jonah Jackson, a graduate transfer from Rutgers, is the favorite at left guard. He made honorable mention All-Big Ten last year, no easy feat for someone at a program that struggled as much as the Scarlet Knights have.
“I watched his film against us, going against Dre’Mont (Jones) and some of our guys,” Studrawa said. “He did a wonderful job. On the offensive line, you can be a great player, but if one of the guys beside you isn’t (good), you’re not going to look good.”
Jackson arrived in Columbus a month ago and has made a strong initial impression.
“Because of his experience, he’s going to be a calming influence, and already has been,” Studrawa said. “What I’ve seen of Jonah so far, I couldn’t be more excited. He’s exactly what we thought he would be.”
The competition between Nicholas Petit-Frere and Branden Bowen at right tackle is one of the most intriguing ones of training camp. Petit-Frere, the top-rated player in Ohio State’s 2018 recruiting class, has been on a 7,000-calorie diet to bulk up.
“His roommate called me the other night,” Studrawa said. “He said, ‘Coach, he’s got Wendy’s and two PB&J sandwiches in bed with him, but he fell asleep.’”
Bowen won the right guard job in 2017 and played well before he suffered two broken bones in his left leg against Maryland midway through the season.
“Bowen, by the end of the spring ball, looked to me just like he was before his injury,” Studrawa said. “That’s the first time I could say that. He’s battled through that thing.”
As for who has the edge entering camp, Studrawa said, “I’d say it’s 50-50.”
Whoever loses that competition likely will be the sixth man on the line, but Studrawa is comforted by having more depth than he’s had in his previous three years here.
Josh Alabi will push Munford at left tackle. Gavin Cupp, who worked at left guard in the spring, has impressed Studrawa, as have interior linemen Matthew Jones and Harry Miller, a freshman.
“There’s going to be some tremendous competition, and that’s the No. 1 thing I’m excited about,” Studrawa said. “It’s a good group of guys, too. They get along. They hang out. The camaraderie off the field is off the charts. That’s going to help us. I have no doubt they’re going to be a good unit.”