Ohio State needs to find four new starters on the offensive line this season, and of the likely new starters, nobody has less experience than redshirt freshman tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere.
Petit-Frere was a 5-star signee in the 2018 class as a top 10 prospect and came to Columbus with very high expectations.
Those expectations weren’t to the point where he was thought to be a possible starter last year, but that changed once the 2018 season was over and the Buckeyes waived goodbye to starting right tackle Isaiah Prince.
Petit-Frere began the spring behind fifth-year senior Branden Bowen at right tackle, but when injuries forced Bowen to move to other positions, Petit-Frere remained at right tackle and left the spring as No. 1 on the depth chart.
He will have to win the battle in fall camp, but from going against him every day in the spring, senior defensive end Jonathon Cooper believes Petit-Frere is ready to be a starter.
“I feel like there is no reason why he shouldn’t,” Cooper said recently. “He’s talented. He goes hard. But a lot of guys on the offensive line are talented and they go hard. He will have to earn his spot.”
Last season was a learning experience for Petit-Frere. It was also a growing experience, and not just because of his 8,000-calorie-a-day diet.
The reason why most offensive linemen redshirt in college football is because the jump is just so vast from high school to college, and it was even worse for Petit-Frere because he didn’t enroll early.
“It’s big. I can tell how big coming early can be,” he said. “I felt like I was still learning a lot during the fall. But then once winter happened, I just got more experience. I think coming in early, a lot of the younger guys who were in my class that got a chance to go through the winter, it makes them a man. It makes them really understand how to perform here at this program. Summer is the same way, but getting two chances at it instead of one really changes some player.”
Having now gone through a second summer as a Buckeye, Petit-Frere has taken part in the practices and prepations and workouts, and none of it is new any longer.
He saw first hand what it took for others to get on the field last season, which gave him a roadmap to the field for this season.
And while he has been hard at work in the weight room, he’s also been studying his craft so that he can show offensive line coach Greg Studrawa that he is ready to be a starter.
“Master the craft, that’s the biggest thing,” Petit-Frere said. “I’ve been learning the game. I’ve been studying, watching film. I’ve been showing a lot of effort. Coach Stud’s been saying I’m giving a lot of effort, but I’ve got to master the craft. I’ve got to be able to go out to the field and call every single blitz out. I’ve got to be able to go out to the field and know every single look. Know what the team’s expecting for this week. Be prepared for the team coming next week. I’ve got to master my steps and everything about that. There’s so much to really being prepared and ready to go. Just master the craft.”
Cooper has seen the progress made since Petit-Frere arrived, but also noticed improvement throughout the spring when the two would face off in practice. All of it has made an impact on Cooper.
“I went up against him quite a lot,” he said. “He has grown a lot. He has grown from a guy who was just learning, to a guy who became a really solid tackle. I’m really proud of him. He has put more weight on and gotten stronger and gotten bigger. I’m proud of the progress he has made to the player he is.”