10 Questions series: How will the interior of Ohio State's offensive line shake out?

Bill Rabinowitz
The Columbus Dispatch

Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of stories looking at the 10 most pressing questions facing Ohio State football as it prepares for the 2021 season.

Ohio State lost its star center and right guard to the NFL.

The Buckeyes’ left guard from last year didn’t participate in contact drills in the spring because of an injury.

With Ohio State breaking in a new quarterback this year, uncertainty in the interior of the offensive line would not seem to be ideal. Yet the situation is hardly dire. In fact, the Buckeyes are confident that those spots will be a strength, not a weakness.

It certainly will help that Thayer Munford and Nicholas Petit-Frere return at left and right tackle. Pro Football Focus ranks them as the top tackle duo in the country for 2021.

OSU football 10 Questions series

Today, Part 4: How will the interior of the offensive line shake out?

Munford’s decision to take the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA because of COVID-19 was a pleasant surprise for Ohio State, and it wouldn’t have been a shock if Petit-Frere had entered the NFL draft.

Center Josh Myers and right guard Wyatt Davis did decide to turn pro, opening holes at those spots. The expectation was that Harry Miller, who played left guard last year, would shift this year to center, which is his natural position.

Matt Jones (55) has impressed coaches with his play at center, so coaches might decide to leave Harry Miller at left guard.

Miller, Jones, Wypler give Ohio State options at center

That still could happen, but it’s not a lock. Miller is presumably healthy now, but the strong play in the spring by Matt Jones and Luke Wypler at center has given coach Ryan Day and offensive line coach Greg Studrawa added other viable candidates.

“The more flexibility you have, the more options you’re going to have,” Day said during the spring. “The idea is to find our best five offensive linemen. If we can do that and get those guys on the field, that’s the ideal situation for us."

Harry Miller (76) can play both guard and center.

Miller was inconsistent and prone to penalties last year . When COVID absences on the offensive line forced him to move to center for the Michigan State game, he struggled with his snaps early.

Miller is extremely intelligent and would have no trouble analyzing defenses and calling blocking schemes. But sometimes it seemed as if Miller overthought things last year instead of using his considerable physical ability and simply mauling opponents.

Jones played well when pressed into service last year and has continued that. He’s mostly flown under the radar, in part because of his quiet personality. But he has impressed coaches, who could decide to leave Miller at left guard and install Jones at center.

Wypler, a redshirt freshman, made an impressive leap in the spring and is a candidate at center as well.

Paris Johnson Jr. a favorite for right guard 

At right guard, Paris Johnson Jr. is the clear front-runner. The former five-star recruit from Cincinnati is a natural tackle, but he adjusted smoothly to playing inside during the spring. Coaches were impressed by his physical skills and the ease with which he has learned the offense and didn’t repeat mistakes.

Miller, Jones and Johnson are the front-runners for the interior spots, but others beyond Wypler have emerged to provide depth. Josh Fryar, a 6-foot-6, 315-pound redshirt freshman, earned raves in the spring. Dawand Jones, a natural tackle, has battled weight issues but has the athleticism and a 6-8 frame to be imposing. Sophomore Enokk Vimahi also made strides as he has added bulk.

Donovan Jackson a late-arriving guard wild card

The wild card in the group is Donovan Jackson, a five-star freshman from Texas who arrived after spring practice. He was the top-ranked guard in 247Sports.com’s recruiting rankings in this year’s class.

He’s at a disadvantage for early playing time because of his late arrival, but his talent will make him a force soon enough.



Next: Is this the year of the Bullet on defense?

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