Ohio State went through spring camp with just 10 healthy scholarship offensive linemen, which was well short of head coach Ryan Day’s stated goal of 16 every year.
Having those 16 in the spring is rare, considering each year some of those desired 16 will be true freshmen who did not enroll early and are still in high school. The Buckeyes have three such players in Harry Miller, Enokk Vimahi, and Dawand Jones who will arrive this summer.
While those three will provide depth, they won’t necessarily impact the Buckeyes’ starting five. And despite the good work put in by the 10 healthy linemen this past spring, there is still quite a bit of work to do before Ohio State can not only find their best five, but get them working in sync.
Starting left tackle Thayer Munford was out with a back injury, so that didn’t help. And even though he is experienced, he was the only returning starter, so teammates getting used to him this spring would have been beneficial.
There is also incoming graduate transfer Jonah Jackson, who was an Honorable Mention All-Big Ten selection last season at Rutgers. When Jackson announced his transfer to Ohio State, he was immediately seen as a solution at center or guard. With the continued stellar play of redshirt sophomore center Josh Myers, however, it looks like Jackson’s first crack will happen at guard.
But thanks to strong performances this spring from redshirt sophomore Wyatt Davis and fifth-year senior Branden Bowen at right and left guard, Jackson will have a fight on his hands.
For all of these reasons, offensive line coach Greg Studrawa won’t be sure what his starting five will be until he gets them in camp and they get some practices under their feet.
“Yes, absolutely,” he said this spring. “Right now, because that five’s not going to be together yet, and some of the guys that are going to be in there, meaning Thayer especially. And I think Jonah’s going to be one of those guys that’s going to compete right off the bat and could possibly be in there.
“So the cohesiveness of the group that’s playing, obviously with Thayer out, is not there. So what we have to focus on is the development and building some depth. Building Nick Petit and Wyatt and Josh Myers, getting them as much experience as they can get and then same thing with the other guys. And then try to find that cohesive group in the fall.”
As Studrawa mentioned, Wyatt Davis, Josh Myers, and redshirt freshman right tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere all seem to have secured their respective places atop the Buckeyes’ depth chart, as has Thayer Munford.
At this point — provided Munford is going to be healthy enough to play, there is one job still up for grabs, and that is the left guard position.
Not only will that job have to be won in the fall, but that’s where the cohesiveness has to come as well. Coaches prefer the cohesion process starts in the spring, but for the Buckeyes, they will have to hit the ground running once fall camp starts in July.
“It’s hard. But the good thing is you’ve got 29 practices,” Studrawa said. “That’s one thing. I don’t worry about that. Thayer’s had the experience, he’ll jump right back in, it won’t take him long, and then we have the summer too. They do a lot of things in the summer that people don’t even know about to get ready, to build that cohesiveness. So the summer will be huge too and then going into camp.”
Coaches can hardly be involved in the summer, which is why every position needs leaders to lead player development. Fortunately for the Buckeyes, even though they return just one starter, they will have four fifth-year seniors, and three others who have been here for three or four years.
But what exactly goes on in the summer to build cohesiveness and improvement?
“They run that. They run it all on their time,” Studrawa said. “We give them a plan. We have a plan of what we want to accomplish on a daily basis. When they’re in the weight room with Mickey Marotti, those guys go out there and the leaders take charge and know what they have to go out there and do. They watch film together, they breakdown film together, they fill out reports and things so I can keep progress of what they’re doing without actually having to be out there with them.”
The eventual starting five hasn’t played together yet, but the coaches have a pretty good idea of what 80% of it will look like. That should allow the 80% to grow together in camp while two or three players vie for the open left guard job. And while those two or three players battle through a month of camp, they will have the opportunity to build the kind of cohesion that every offensive line needs.