Branden Bowen came to Ohio State from Corner Canyon High School in Draper, Utah where he was a 3-star offensive tackle prospect in the 2015 class.
He redshirted as a true freshman during the 2015 season, but played as a reserve and on special teams in 2016. As a redshirt sophomore in 2017, he won the starting right guard job and started the first six games before breaking his leg. Bowen missed the rest of the season and also missed the 2018 season due to complications and another surgery.
Fully healthy in 2019, Bowen won the starting right tackle job and played very well for the Buckeyes. He earned a Second-Team All-Big Ten nod from the conference coaches.
Bowen’s departure may be under the radar compared to some other names, but offensive line coach Greg Studrawa is now on the search for somebody who can provide the same measure of consistency on the field as Bowen did this past season.
The Buckeyes aren’t exactly awash in numbers, but the talent is there.
Nicholas Petit-Frere and Bowen battled for the right tackle spot in fall camp last year. After Bowen won the job, Petit-Frere spent the season as his backup, seeing action in nearly every game on the offensive line. He even started the Northwestern game at left tackle when Thayer Munford was out with an injury.
Another third-year possibility is Max Wray, who has yet to see any significant time on offense in his first two seasons. There are also a pair of 2019 freshmen to watch. Dawand Jones seemed like a sure bet to redshirt, but quickly impressed the coaching staff with his attitude and effort. Once it was decided that he wasn’t going to redshirt, he played in every game, seeing significant minutes on the offensive line against both Maryland and Rutgers.
Ryan Jacoby came to Ohio State as a tackle last year, but quickly moved to guard as a true freshman. That is probably where he will stay, but he has the size to be able to flex.
The Buckeyes have also added six freshmen offensive linemen, of which three probably project to tackle at this point. Paris Johnson is a 5-star prospect from Cincinnati who is ranked the No. 1 offensive tackle in the 2020 recruiting class. He is big and mobile and has already enrolled. Grant Toutant and Trey Leroux are both 3-star prospects who have size. Leroux is already enrolled.
While the Buckeyes are looking for a right tackle, they could also get some good looks at left tackle if Thayer Munford gets a bit of a break in the spring. This would allow them to get as many reps as possible for as many players as possible.
Expect Petit-Frere to open spring with the ones. He has the most experience of the group and should be ready to blossom in year three. The more experience Jones gets, the better he gets. This will be a very big spring for him if Munford does get to take it easy.
It will be interesting to see if Wray can make a jump now as he goes into his third spring.
There will also be a ton of eyes on Paris Johnson as he gets his cleats wet for the first time.
Barring something unforeseen, Nicholas Petit-Frere will be the starting right tackle for the Buckeyes this season. He was the No. 1 offensive tackle in the 2018 class and has spent his first two seasons getting big enough, strong enough, and good enough to handle a starting role. Now over 300 pounds and with more than two years of training under Mickey Marotti, he should be ready to realize his enormous potential.