Ohio State will only be replacing two starters on the offensive line from last season, but it will still be a starting group of five that could look much different than it did to open the season in 2017.
Left tackle Jamarco Jones is gone, as is Rimington Trophy-winning center Billy Price. The Buckeyes return a dozen linemen from last year’s team, and they’ll add three more to the group between winter and summer.
There are a large number of variables that may not be settled yet during spring camp, but at the very least, Urban Meyer and offensive line coach Greg Studrawa are going to want to know as much as possible about their starting five.
In order to find out who that group is, we have helpfully put together a To Do List for Studrawa when it comes to getting his position group settled. Other position groups will follow until spring football begins.
1. Get Isaiah Prince situated at left tackle.
Isaiah Prince was a Third-Team All-Big Ten selection at right tackle last season as a junior, and he is expected to now make the move to left tackle. It’s not an entirely new position, but it’s also not quite the same. With a new starting quarterback behind center, the Buckeyes are going to need Prince to be solidified as the blindside protection. Greg Studrawa is going to have to spend some time with Prince and get him acclimated. This being Prince’s fourth year, however, the learning curve should be relatively flat.
2. Figure out the right tackle spot.
This spring, it looks like it will be sophomore Thayer Munford, redshirt junior Josh Alabi, and true freshman Max Wray competing for the open right tackle spot. Will other players get involved, like Michael Jordan or Malcolm Pridgeon or even Josh Myers? So before Greg Studrawa can figure out who the starting right tackle is, he first has to decide who the candidates are. And then who knows what is going to happen when Branden Bowen is healthy enough to get back into the picture.
3. Find your center.
Replacing centers at Ohio State has never seemed all that difficult. This century began with LeCharles Bentley, and then continued from there. The list is Bentley, Alex Stepanovich, Nick Mangold, Doug Datish, Jim Cordle, Mike Brewster, Corey Linsley, Jacoby Boren, Pat Elflein, and Billy Price. That is an incredibly impressive list. Will Brady Taylor or maybe Matthew Burrell or freshman Matthew Jones continue that lineage? Taylor has been the backup for years and has Price’s endorsement. It will be an interesting battle this spring, especially with Jones already on campus.
4. Get reps for the young guys.
The Buckeyes had two upperclassmen transfer on the offensive line in the offseason, which creates more opportunities for players like Wyatt Davis, Josh Myers, Thayer Munford, and Gavin Cupp. Cupp, now a redshirt sophomore, has battled injuries through his first two seasons, and if he is healthy now, this would be a good opportunity to give him a longer look. The same can be said for redshirt freshmen Davis and Myers, who are two of the more highly-ranked players on the roster as recruits. Munford should get plenty of reps in his competition at right tackle.
5. Settle the right guard situation as best as possible.
The season-opening right guard last season was Branden Bowen, but a broken leg moved Demetrius Knox into the starting spot. Knox is now a redshirt senior, but has had several opportunities to win a job in spring camp and has yet to do it. He played very well last year as a starter and could be considered the favorite, especially if Bowen isn’t yet able to compete for the job. The job won’t just be given to Knox, however, because players like Davis, Cupp, Myers, and even Burrell could be in the mix. The position probably won’t be settled this spring, but if Greg Studrawa leaves camp confident in his options, then consider it a success.