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Football: Versatile Ohio State offensive line prepares for future

Ohio State then-redshirt freshman offensive lineman Wyatt Davis (52) looks to block a Husky in the first half of the the Rose Bowl Game featuring Ohio State and Washington in Pasadena, Calif. on Jan. 1. Ohio State won 28-23. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo Editor

Josh Myers initially thought he was going to be a tackle, something he said all high school offensive lineman strive to be at the collegiate level. Coming in as a 6-foot-6, 307-pound lineman, Ohio State offensive line coach Greg Studrawa made it clear to the Miamisburg, Ohio, native that guard was a more natural fit.

Myers’ move to guard was not one that would define him for the rest of his collegiate career. The now-redshirt sophomore knew that. He just wanted to get on the field as quickly as possible.

“I had the mindset of, ‘I just want to play. It doesn’t matter where I am at,’” Myers said. “I’ll be at tight end if they want me there.”

Instead of tight end, Myers was one of four players in a three-year span that made the move from guard to center: Pat Elflein, Billy Price and Michael Jordan. Now, with Jordan off to the NFL, Myers heads into spring camp as the favorite for a starting job on the line at a position he had to learn in college.

Jordan has that level of versatility, as well as the confidence to tell coaches that could take a chance on him in the draft that he can play anywhere, that whatever the team needs, he can do it.

“I think that that’s good because coaches are going to make a team out of the best players they have,” Jordan said. “If the player can’t play right tackle, but you have a player that can play left tackle, they are going to do whatever can make the team gel better.”

That’s the mindset Studrawa has for his team heading into the 2019 season. As the line prepares for a spring game without a few pieces that could prove to be valuable next season, like five-star center Harry Miller and graduate transfer guard Jonah Jackson, the Ohio State offensive line coach wants his best five players on the field at one time, no matter the position.

That’s where versatility comes in, something Studrawa has been preaching to his position group from the moment he took the job prior to the 2016 season.

In those meetings, Studrawa told his players that NFL teams only have a limited amount of spots for offensive lineman. To be able to play both sides, guard and tackle, is something he strived to implement.

For him, it started in the recruiting process, getting that mindset ingrained into high school players’ minds early.

“A lot of the recruits ask me, ‘Where am I going to play?’ I don’t know,” Studrawa said. “You can play at this level, I know that.”

Studrawa never wants to earmark a player, to pigeonhole them into one specific position for the rest of his career.

He pointed to Jamarco Jones, who came in as a tackle and became an All-American guard for the Buckeyes. He pointed to Isaiah Prince, who could seamlessly switch from the right to the left tackle position. He pointed to Price and Elflein, the two All-American guards-turned-Rimington Award winners at center.

“The ability to go do that, allows you to get the best five players on the field, and it develops versatility in those guys,” Studrawa said.

Even if players have not made a position switch on the offensive line, Studrawa expects each player in his room to know what each position does on every specific play.

“When we are watching film, he goes through, you could be a guard answering questions on what the tackle does, just because it is a valuable thing to know,” redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Wyatt Davis said. “Makes the game easier if you know what the guy next to you is doing and what the guys on the other side, they’re doing. It makes the game a lot slower.”

Davis said he sees this in Myers, saying he knows where the running back is going, how to approach each defensive line front and responding to blitzes before they even come. Davis described it as Myers’ football IQ skyrocketing.

At this point, Ohio State does not have its full offensive line. Miller, Jackson, three-star offensive guard Dawand Jones, four-star tackle Enokk Vimahi and junior offensive lineman Thayer Munford, who is sitting out the spring with an injury, will change the dynamic of the line in the fall.

But Studrawa knows what the focus is for the line as a whole.

“The cohesiveness of the group that is playing, obviously with Thayer out, it’s not there,” Studrawa said. “So what we have to focus on is the development and building some depth.”

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