Paris Johnson did not always have his sights set on Ohio State.
The incoming five-star offensive tackle had another Ohio school in mind when he first opened his recruitment: Miami University.
“[Being a Redhawk] was the dream,” Johnson said. “My dad played there, my cousin played there with Ben Roethlisberger, so I had a ton of connections to there.”
It took one visit to Columbus for him to drop his Miami allegiance and choose Ohio State, where the No. 1 offensive tackle recruit in the country is gearing up for a run at the difficult task of starting as a true freshman while acclimating to the life of a college student-athlete.
But initially Johnson wasn’t signing for the love of the school — he signed to play under legendary coach Urban Meyer.
Following Meyer’s retirement at the end of the 2018 season, Johnson’s status as a Buckeye hung in the air. Ultimately, he decided to keep his commitment.
“I just had to discern what was the best decision,” Johnson said. “I just kept getting a pull to come back to Columbus.”
Johnson said his play is well balanced, with room to grow. He attributes his versatility to the differing offensive philosophies he followed during high school, where he transferred from St. Xavier to Princeton High School in Cincinnati for his senior year.
“We did a lot of passing, which helped me work on my pass sets,” Johnson said.
At Princeton, Johnson said he was able to focus on the run more and round out his game. Johnson’s multifaceted nature will be an important aspect of his efforts to crack the starting rotation.
It won’t be an easy task, though, as Johnson will compete against redshirt freshman Nicholas Petit-Frere, a five-star prospect in his own right. Petit-Frere was the No. 1 tackle in the 2018 class and a top 10 overall recruit.
Dawand Jones, a 6-foot-8, 360-pound freshman offensive lineman this past season, may also factor into the competition for the starting tackle position vacated by redshirt senior Branden Bowen.
Along the way, Johnson will have four-star defensive line recruit Darrion Henry-Young –– a teammate from Princeton High School –– by his side. Henry-Young said he’s excited to begin his Ohio State journey with Johnson.
“We get to talk about everything we’re going through,” Henry-Young said. “I’m not going through this by myself, so it’s cool to know somebody I’ve known a long time is going through it as well.”
The 6-foot-6, 290-pound lineman is still getting used to the college lifestyle and way the football program operates.
“The first few days were really fun,” Johnson said. “We were just getting acclimated to the workouts and to the classroom.”
Johnson has set high expectations for himself during the early enrollee process. He said he strives to be known as one of the hardest workers on the team.
“My goal right now is to work hard in every single drill and every single lift,” Johnson said.
Johnson knows the difficulty of obtaining that starting tackle spot, and he said learning the playbook and showing the coaches he can compete will be imperative to his goal of starting.
The Cincinnati native plays with a certain swagger on the field: He dances after making big blocks and is not afraid to talk trash with his opponent.
“I like to have fun with it,” Johnson said. “It’s fun to dominate the guy in front of you, but sometimes [offensive line] is not fun to watch, and with me being relatively new to offensive line, I try to put my own spin on it.”
Ohio State head coach Ryan Day has not ruled out the idea of Johnson cracking the starting line.
“Right now it’s learning the playbook, learning where to go to class, learning all that stuff, learning the calls,” Day said. “He’ll do that. He’s very detail-oriented. He wants to do it right. He’s very determined, and we have high hopes for him.”