On an offense with the most productive quarterback in school history and two Rimington Trophy winners, left tackle Jamarco Jones has arguably been the most consistent member of the Ohio State offense the past two seasons.
Jones was a First-Team All-Big Ten selection this past season and was a constant whenever the Buckeyes needed a running lane or an extra second to throw. He spent his first two seasons as a backup, learning the job, and then he stepped in with no noticeable downside for the past two years.
Jamarco Jones leaves a tremendous void in Ohio State’s offensive line, but the Buckeyes do have a head start in replacing him if they go with the veteran choice.
The option here that makes the most sense is to simply bring Isaiah Prince over to the left side from the right side. He has been the starter at right tackle in each of the last two seasons. Yes, he had some rough moments in 2016, but he was solid throughout 2017. Jamarco Jones believes he’ll be fine if they make the move, and Prince has that same confidence.
Jones’ backup last season was converted defensive tackle Joshua Alabi, who is now in his second year as an offensive tackle. He impressed immediately upon making the switch to offensive tackle. Can he continue the progression into the starting lineup? The Buckeyes have had success with converted defensive linemen in the past, namely Darryl Baldwin, Chase Farris, and Billy Price.
Perhaps the player with the most upside is rising sophomore Thayer Munford, who backed up Prince at right tackle as a true freshman last season. Munford was not an early enrollee, but once he stepped on campus, coaches and teammates took notice. He is strong and mobile, and looks like an eventual left tackle, but will it be 2018 or 2019 when he finally takes over the reins?
Once he is healthy enough to get back into the mix, Branden Bowen will be involved somewhere on this offensive line. He won the right guard job a year ago. Will he get a shot at left tackle? He’s certainly got the size for it at 6-foot-7 and 312 pounds. Fifth-year senior Malcolm Pridgeon could also play a part. He was an All-American tackle in junior college, but has spent his first two seasons at guard for the Buckeyes. Is he ready to compete outside for a starting spot?
If Ohio State would prefer to put an experienced starter at left tackle while keeping Isaiah Prince at right tackle, perhaps starting left guard Michael Jordan moves one spot to the left. The Buckeyes have more guards than tackles right now, so they could absorb the move fairly well, but only if Jordan can handle the new position, of course.
Ohio State will also have true freshman Max Wray on campus for winter workouts and spring football. They are also looking to add one more offensive tackle to the 2018 recruiting class, be it Rasheed Walker or Nicholas Petite-Freer — or both.
As far as the left tackle spot is concerned, this spring is either going to be very interesting or very boring. The quickest and neatest fix would be Isaiah Prince, but if they choose to go another way, then every other healthy name mentioned above is going to get a look. Can Thayer Munford hold off upperclass veterans in a battle for left tackle supremacy? Does Michael Jordan change everything and get involved? If he does, the entire nature of the OSU offensive line could change. There are a ton of moving parts that will have repercussions on down the line.
The best bet here is for Isaiah Prince to move to left tackle. It makes the most sense, provided he can handle the job. It also keeps Michael Jordan at his spot of stability, and with a new center coming, stability at the guard positions shouldn’t be overlooked.
I expect Isaiah Prince to move to left tackle and play very well, He will eventually be backed up by Joshua Alabi as Thayer Munford, Branden Bowen, and perhaps Malcolm Pridgeon battle for the right tackle spot.
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