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Football: Inexperienced Ohio State offensive line gets thrown into the fire during Spring Game

The Buckeyes line up on the line of scrimmage during the 2019 Spring Game on April 13. Gray beat Scarlet 35-17. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Managing Editor for Design

The future of the Ohio State offensive line was at the Spring Game. But it was not on the field.

Jonah Jackson, a graduate transfer from Rutgers, who will not join the Buckeyes officially until fall camp, was on the sideline during the game as was five-star center Harry Miller. But they could not help head coach Ryan Day’s offense immediately.

Day had only 11 offensive linemen available for the Spring Game, forcing him to shorten the quarters and have a running clock in the second half, protecting the health of an already depleted room.

On top of not being 100 percent in terms of what the room would look like in the fall during spring practice, Day already had the offensive line as one of his main worries heading into his first spring as head coach.

And after the Spring Game, that did not change.

“At the offensive line, we have four guys to replace there,” Day said. “They’re probably the least experienced.”

But to redshirt sophomore guard Wyatt Davis, spring practice was not a time to wait for those members of the line who were not there yet or not healthy, like junior tackle Thayer Munford. It was a time to see which of the young players could emerge.

“All the guys that came in early, they have really stepped, I mean all the young guys, they really have been stepping up,” Davis said. “They have been developing better every week and I’m excited to see what they are going to do this fall camp.”

In the Spring Game, the Ohio State offensive line showed off its ability to block, especially in the running game. Ball carriers averaged 5.1 yards per carry Saturday, scoring four total touchdowns, including two by redshirt freshman running back Master Teague and one on a read option by sophomore quarterback Justin Fields.

But the spring was also a time for personal growth. Spending the majority of his time at right guard, Davis has been viewed as one of the secure starters on the line from the start of practice.

However, he does not view it in that way.

“Nothing’s for sure as far as the offensive line goes until that first game,” Davis said. “I just been trying to prove that I can play that spot and just trying to get better each day.”

In the middle, redshirt sophomore center Josh Myers said that the Spring Game was the end of his goal, saying he wanted to focus on his personal development, getting a lot of reps and staying healthy, all of which he accomplished.

While waiting for depth, Ohio State saw the emergence of a young player that may have the opportunity for increased playing time come fall: redshirt freshman tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere.

Starting at right tackle in the Spring Game, facing what many on the offensive line consider to be some of the best defensive ends in the country, Petit-Frere continued to show consistency, showing what he had shown in multiple practices before.

Davis also highlighted the play of redshirt freshman Matthew Jones and freshman Ryan Jacoby on the line, saying both had made strides in the right direction during the spring.

Myers said he feels as though the offensive line, with the pieces they have, has made progress from spring to the end of the Spring Game.

“I think there were a lot of question marks at the beginning of the spring, a lot of guys that had to prove themselves,” Myers said. “I think, for the most part, the guys stepped up to the plate and accepted the challenge and had a good spring.”

But there remains questions to be answered, such as how much playing time will be allotted to the members of the line.

Once Jackson, Miller, four-star tackle Enokk Vimahi and three-star tackle Dawand Jones arrive and Munford gets healthy, Ohio State will have a better idea of what the line will look like. That is the day Myers looks forward to.  

“I like that it’s a new group and we are going to have to find cohesiveness and get better,” Myers said.

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