There are five starting jobs open on the Ohio State offense.
The Buckeyes need to replace JK Dobbins at running back, Binjimen Victor at X receiver, KJ Hill at H, Jonah Jackson at left guard, and Branden Bowen at right tackle.
Thanks to the recruiting of Urban Meyer and Ryan Day, there are talented options at every turn.
At right tackle specifically, there are a pair of former 5-star prospects in Nicholas Petit-Frere and Paris Johnson, and they will be competing with sophomore Dawand Jones, who surprisingly played more last year than expected.
Petit-Frere was the No. 1 offensive tackle in the 2018 class, just as Johnson was the No. 1 tackle in the 2020 class. Petit-Frere got a start last season and is now entering his third season as a Buckeye. Johnson was expected to come right in and push everyone for a starting job. He enrolled early and was impressive, but the cancellation of spring ball was a setback.
“Yes, it is a setback, but we’re all dealing with setbacks,” said Ohio State offensive line coach Greg Studrawa. “So we can talk about it as being a setback or we can move forward. That’s what I told all these guys. Having them out there practicing as offensive linemen, there’s no doubt, they need thousands of reps before they can perfect the things that they’re asked to do. But this kid has a little bit of difference about him. His maturity level and the way he attacks things lead me to believe that he’s got that opportunity.”
The maturity that Studrawa talks about allowed Johnson to step right into the weight room and onto the practice field and not look out of place. No freshman has everything they need on day one, but it’s the coach’s job to get the most out of what they have while continually giving them more to work with.
At 6-foot-6 and 305 pounds, Paris Johnson looks the part better than most, but looking the part is only effective from the walk between the bus and the locker room. An offensive tackle without the proper technique is about as effective in stopping pass rushers as buoys are in stopping waves.
“We’re focusing on all the techniques that he needs to get to be able to go take that position,” Studrawa said. “Physically, he’s done a tremendous job. Coming in early and the weightlifting part that he had in the winter was unbelievable. It transformed him. I think it’s gonna put him on the edge of being able to do it physically, and that’s the first thing.”
Johnson has had to continue the weight work at home, but so has everyone else. When football does get back underway and players are allowed back into the weight room, Johnson shouldn’t be too far from where he needs to be.
But then it’s right back to the refinement, and when you’ve got a player as talented as Johnson, they get a little bit more out of everything because they are equipped to handle it.
“So once we get past that, it’s just continuing to refine his techniques, continuing to mentally review the film, learn our offense inside and out,” Studrawa said. “Those tackles make some pretty important calls in the pass protection game.”
“So once he gets that thing down mentally and each day continues to work this technique, then again when we get back we can still press it, and then get into two-a-days or however much time we’re gonna have to prepare and then go from there. But things I’ve seen lead me to believe that he has a really good chance.”