The Buckeyes got some bad news Friday as center Michael Jordan announced that he would skip his senior year and enter the 2019 NFL Draft.
Jordan would have been one of only two full-time starters to return on the line, and his loss leaves a lot of questions up front.
Malcolm Pridgeon, who started at left guard this season, Demetrius Knox (right guard), and Isaiah Prince (right tackle) all played their final seasons as Buckeyes in 2018, along with backup center Brady Taylor.
First, the good news: The Buckeyes will return four players with at least some starting experience. Thayer Munford was solid as the starting left tackle all year. If he returns healthy from an injury that kept him out of the Rose Bowl, he should be a good building block for the line.
Josh Alabi started the Rose Bowl in Munford’s place, and played pretty well, especially given the circumstances.
Similarly, Wyatt Davis stepped in for an injured Knox and started the Big Ten Championship Game as well as in Pasadena. The month of practice reps that he got with the first-team should go a long way toward making him a solid starter in the fall.
Branden Bowen was the starting right guard in 2017 before a suffering a gruesome leg injury against Maryland. He missed all of this year after suffering a setback, but should be in the mix to start somewhere in 2019 as well. He has played both guard and tackle during his career, and provides some good flexibility for the line.
Josh Myers made consistent progress throughout the fall, and the coaching staff seemed totally comfortable with the idea of him stepping in at center if needed.
Nick Petit-Frere was ranked as one of the best players in the nation regardless of position in the 2018 class. He played in only three games, meaning he’ll still be a redshirt freshman in 2019. He was the second-team right tackle by the end of the season.
Matthew Jones came in as a highly-ranked center, but spent most of 2018 practicing at guard. Harry Miller will arrive with a better chance to crack the two-deep than most true freshmen linemen. Ryan Jacoby will likely need a year of development before he’s ready.
Gavin Cupp played in only two games along the line, and Max Wray missed the year with an injury.
A lot will change between now and the start of the Florida Atlantic game. Some young players may take a big step forward, while others may suffer injuries or transfer.
But here’s a decent guess at what the two-deep might look like on September 1
First team (LT-LG-C-RG-RT): Thayer Munford, Branden Bowen, Josh Myers, Wyatt Davis, Nick Petit-Frere
Second team (LT-LG-C-RG-RT): Josh Alabi, Gavin Cupp, Harry Miller, Matthew Jones, Max Wray
Alabi seems like the player most likely to make a jump from second team to first. He has demonstrated that he can play on a big stage, and could easily win the starting right tackle job.
Whether it’s Alabi or Petit-Frere, that starting line is somewhat somewhat inexperienced, but promising.
The bigger question is what the depth is beyond the two-deep. After 2019, Bowen and Alabi will be out of eligibility. Munford, Myers, Davis, and Cupp will all be draft-eligible.
Even adding Jacoby onto the depth chart somewhere, things are pretty slim.
Adding Doug Nester, a 4-star prospect who is committed to the 2019 class but hasn’t signed yet, would be a big help. Bringing in a transfer would provide some veteran insurance.
But longer-term, the Buckeyes absolutely have to sign five or more offensive linemen in 2020.