Ohio State football expected to hire UCLA assistant Justin Frye as next offensive line coach

Joey Kaufman
The Columbus Dispatch

Four days after parting ways with offensive line coach Greg Studrawa as part of this offseason’s coaching staff maneuvering, Ohio State has found a replacement.

The Buckeyes are set to hire UCLA offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Justin Frye in a move that should be made official later Monday, The Dispatch has confirmed.

Frye, 38, has longstanding connections with coach Ryan Day as they spent four seasons together on staffs at Boston College and Temple, overlapping at the schools from 2011-14.

Since Frye left Boston College in 2017, he has been an assistant under Chip Kelly at UCLA, first joining the Bruins as the offensive line coach before adding the title of offensive coordinator the following season. Kelly, one of the forerunners in the proliferation of up-tempo, spread offenses across college football, has continued serving as the team’s play-caller, though.

Justin Frye

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It was not immediately clear if Frye would also hold any coordinator responsibilities once he arrives at Ohio State. Kevin Wilson remains the Buckeyes’ offensive coordinator, and wide receivers coach Brian Hartline was promoted to passing game coordinator on Sunday.

UCLA is coming off the best season of Kelly’s tenure, which began with three consecutive losing seasons, ending 2021 on a three-game winning streak to go 8-4 overall.

Featuring a 1,000-yard rusher in Zach Charbonnet, the Bruins finished No. 14 in rushing offense in the Football Bowl Subdivision, averaging 215 yards per game.

That running game success should bode well for the Buckeyes, who struggled on the ground late season, an area of inconsistency that contributed to the 57-year-old Studrawa not being retained after six seasons in Columbus that had made him the program's third-longest tenured assistant coach.

Justin Frye

In two of the final five games, Ohio State was held below 100 rushing yards, including being kept to a season-low 64 yards in a loss at Michigan that prevented it from winning the Big Ten and reaching the College Football Playoff.

As it fell to the Wolverines, its offensive line looked overmatched and was handled at the line of scrimmage. On multiple occasions, it allowed penetration into the backfield, where breakout freshman running back TreVeyon Henderson was stuffed for a loss of yards.

The Buckeyes’ average of 180 rushing yards over 13 games was their lowest mark in a season since totaling 171 yards on a per-game basis in 2018.

In both of Day’s first two seasons at the helm, they had far more success, averaging more than 200 rushing yards per game and seeing J.K. Dobbins become the program’s first-ever 2,000-yard rusher in 2019.

Calling plays for the offense, Day became less likely to lean on the up-and-down rushing attack.

UCLA offensive line coach Justin Frye high-fives players during practice at UCLA Wednesday, August 21, 2019.  (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

For the first time since at least 1950, the Buckeyes passed the ball more often than they ran it in a season, going to the air on 54.1% of their total plays. In their Rose Bowl win, they handed it off less than a third of the time, a season-low.

While Frye’s coaching career has previously intersected with Day, it also has roots in the Midwest.

A former offensive lineman at Indiana from 2002-06, where he started 45 consecutive games for the Hoosiers, Frye began as a graduate assistant at his alma mater. He grew up in Elwood, Indiana, as well.

Joey Kaufman covers Ohio State football for The Columbus Dispatch. Contact him at jkaufman@dispatch.com or on Twitter @joeyrkaufman.

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