Offensive guards don’t typically block defensive ends.
But asked after the Spring Game who on the offensive line is making the biggest impression, Ohio State junior defensive end Chase Young pointed to redshirt sophomore offensive guard Wyatt Davis.
“I think Wyatt, right now, is the leader of our O-line,” Young said. “He calls the shots, has the most respect. Definitely, Wyatt Davis is the big dog on O-line.”
It appears Davis is emerging as a leader up front and impressing his teammates, even at a distance.
Ohio State’s offensive line needs leaders. Four starters are gone from this past season, including two All-Big Ten selections in offensive tackle Isaiah Prince and center Michael Jordan.
Young’s been a driving force behind Davis’ emergence as a leader up front. The two exchange occasional good-natured trash talk, motivating each other before drills.
“Me and Chase have this thing where we go back-and-forth, talking, messaging to each other before practice,” Davis said. “I hate losing to the defense during practice, so I definitely had to come up and be vocal.”
Davis entered Ohio State as a five-star recruit, but offensive linemen rarely start their first season at the collegiate level. Jordan is the lone exception during Urban Meyer’s seven-year head coaching tenure at Ohio State.
Davis closed 2017 with a redshirt, and hovered near the two-deep in 2018 before enduring a trial by fire after injuries to offensive guards Brady Taylor, Branden Bowen and Demetrius Knox. His first career start came in the Big Ten Championship against Northwestern.
That’s more experience than most in the Buckeyes’ hampered offensive line room. Enough that he’s the clear choice to start at right guard in 2019.
“Last year, I would probably say I felt like a young guy, but going into my third year in this, I feel like me and Josh [Myers], and a couple of the older guys need to step up,” Davis said. “Pave the way for all the young guys that came in.”
Myers, a redshirt sophomore center, is another projected starter. Center is a position that often calls for a vocal leader along the offensive line, usually the player to set pass protections and communicate blitz pickups.
Davis is a fan of Myers’ development in that area.
“Josh has done a great job being vocal this year too. You can really see it with how he carries himself,” Davis said. “He’s a lot more confident in everything he does, and that confidence, it rains through the whole unit.”
Head coach Ryan Day called the offensive line his greatest concern in his press conference immediately following the Spring Game. Understandable, given the departures and overall lack of experience.
Meanwhile, Young said the defense “dominated” the offense in spring practice, something Davis has been hearing in his ear for almost two months.
It gave Davis and Myers a sense of urgency to get the position group where it needs to be, and it’s led to their emergence as leaders.
“We need to regroup, watch the film, work hard in the summer workouts, try to strive to get better each day, and as it gets closer to football season, really perfecting our craft,” Davis said.
Davis believes his limited reps won’t hinder his leadership ability.
“Even though we don’t have all the game experience, I still feel like we can go out on that field and lead,” Davis said.
Raising your voice to dictate scheme doesn’t require game experience. Being there when a newer player to the program asks a question, helping along and setting an example can all be done without game experience.
And Davis said he wants to be there when the younger players need him, including redshirt freshman offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere.
Offensive line coach Greg Studrawa wants his veterans to know all five line positions, making it easier to assist younger athletes with the playbook. Davis learned tackle quickly, allowing him to help Petit-Frere, who is in competition to start at right tackle beside him.
“If he ever has a question about what to do on a play, I’ll be able to help him,” Davis said.
Improvements are already being made under Davis’ leadership. Ohio State returns far greater depth on its defensive line, with three 2018 starters and a number of role players back for another season in Columbus.
With a young offensive front facing off with a tested group at defensive line, players either get better or get beat.
Young believes the former is happening.
“Every day the whole D-line goes out, and we try to make the O-line better,” Young said. “We’ve definitely seen improvement from the beginning of spring until now.”