Nicholas Petit-Frere grows into larger role on Ohio State offensive line
Nicholas Petit-Frere was in line to be Ohio State’s starting right tackle this season.
But if there was to be a snag in his move toward the top of the depth chart, it would have come in the spring, a period of time in the offseason when players lacked access to team facilities at the school because of lockdown measures in place at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
During the shutdown, Petit-Frere returned to his home in Florida, staying with his mother as he finished the rest of the semester’s classes online.
Buckeyes offensive line coach Greg Studrawa had some concerns with his meal schedule. Would he eat enough food?
Needing to add weight to his 6-foot-5 frame since joining the program in 2018, Petit-Frere has followed a carefully constructed diet, one put together by the nutrition staff. He ate 8,000 calories a day last year as a result.
But any worries were alleviated through the efforts of his mother, Loris.
“She put her foot down,” Studrawa said, “and took the thing over and fed him every day and got him up to where he's supposed to be. That was kind of a blessing.”
Petit-Frere's meal plan involved a lot of pasta, often lasagna and spaghetti, some of his favorite meals. By the time players were allowed to return to Ohio State’s facilities in June for workouts, he had plenty of helpings.
“He ate her out of house,” Studrawa cracked.
Entering this season, which begins with Saturday’s season opener against Nebraska, Petit-Frere is up to 315 pounds, according to his position coach.
Last season, the school listed him as 295 pounds, which was about 20 pounds lighter than Branden Bowen, who beat him out for the starting job on the right side of the offensive line.
Following Bowen’s departure, Petit-Frere claimed the role, though freshman Paris Johnson also is expected to see some snaps against the Cornhuskers.
“He's bigger, he’s as strong as he ever was,” Studrawa said of Petit-Frere. “His offseason, his development, has really pushed him to the top of that position.”
Left tackle Thayer Munford said he was impressed by Petit-Frere last fall when he stepped in for Munford during a midseason win at Northwestern. Munford was hobbled by an ankle injury, prompting Petit-Frere to start at left tackle.
“It showed me and all the other offensive linemen that he’ll be ready to play,” Munford said. “He’s not a slacker. He wants to work. That’s what Buckeye Nation is going to see. He’s going to work.”
Following the game, Munford left assured that Petit-Frere would protect quarterback Justin Fields “as well as anybody.”
By moving above 300 pounds for this fall, he should also be a well-rounded tackle for the Buckeyes.
“With him adding that weight on, it makes him that much stronger in the run game and more powerful in the pass game as well,” Munford added.
The emergence of Petit-Frere at right tackle is one of the more significant developments for an offensive line that was key for the success of the Buckeyes’ high-scoring attack last season.
Outside of him, the only other new starter is sophomore Harry Miller, a center who moved over to left guard, filling a spot vacated by Jonah Jackson.
The continuity, and development from the less experienced linemen in Miller and Petit-Frere, left Studrawa upbeat this week that the group would remain an important foundation for the Buckeyes.
“I have confidence in all those guys,” Studrawa said. “They've played before. They've all been in games before. It's not going to shock anybody. They're starting to jell now as a unit with the time that we've had in this past month.
“Really, my only concern through this whole pandemic was getting them to jell together, play as five guys with new guys at positions and that stuff. They've done, and they're going to continue to develop.”
Ohio State vs. Nebraska
When: 12:05 p.m. Saturday
TV: Ch. 28
Radio: WBNS-FM/AM (97.1/1460)