Ohio State had the No. 3 scoring offense in the country in 2019, but one of the greatest reasons for the success was a group that did not score a single touchdown.
All five of Ohio State’s starting offensive linemen made an All-Big Ten team in 2019, but two positions will need to be filled in 2020 after former offensive linemen Jonah Jackson and Branden Bowen transitioned to the NFL. A mixture of experience and leadership brought by returning players combined with the talent of players vying for the open positions will be the 2020 recipe for leading an offense that doesn’t lack offensive weapons.
Prior to the 2019 Big Ten Championship Game, head coach Ryan Day spoke highly of his interior line, which had been overshadowed by the touchdown production of then-sophomore quarterback Justin Fields and then-junior running back J.K. Dobbins.
“They’re the tip of the spear on our offense. Everything goes through those guys,” Day said in a Dec. 3 press conference.
The spearhead, which allowed Dobbins to rush for a school-record 2,003 rushing yards, will consist of redshirt junior center Josh Myers and redshirt junior guard Wyatt Davis, but the left guard position has opened up.
Offensive line coach Greg Studrawa said the position will be a three-player competition between sophomore Harry Miller, graduate senior Gavin Cupp and redshirt sophomore Matthew Jones. While only three days passed before the COVID-19 pandemic brought a premature conclusion to spring practice, Studrawa said that Miller and Jones caught his eye while Cupp was unavailable with a foot injury.
“We got three guys that I think are going to be able to compete for that job,” Studrawa said April 22 in a media teleconference.
On the outside, the void left by Bowen at the right tackle spot is also set to be filled prior to the season with three guys in the running to claim it. Redshirt sophomore Nicholas Petit-Frere is the current favorite to open the season as the starter due to his experience, as he played in all 14 games for the Buckeyes last season.
On his tail are redshirt sophomore Dawand Jones and five-star freshman Paris Johnson. Studrawa said that he expects a close contest at the position this summer.
“They’re working on their individual technique on their own and then we’ll be getting back together,” Studrawa said. “It’s gonna be a full-court press in the fight for the job, but it’s gonna be exciting. I can tell you that.”
After deciding to forego the NFL draft in December, senior left tackle Thayer Munford will reclaim his spot on the Ohio State front. Munford, the most experienced member of the unit, has started in 38 games over the past three seasons and was a key contributor for those offenses.
The Buckeye offensive line will also benefit from solid depth at the position group thanks to elite level talent amongst the youth of the unit.
Ohio State welcomed Johnson, the top offensive tackle recruit in the 2020 recruiting class, alongside fellow Ohio native and No. 2 ranked center Luke Wypler in January as early enrollees. Adding to the strong pieces in the sophomore class, the Buckeye offensive line is in good hands.
Whoever grabs the open positions, the standard set at right guard should be one of the best in the country. Davis was named a 2020 first-team preseason All-American by the Walter Camp Football Foundation.
Studrawa said Davis’s success is rooted in the aggressive nature in which he plays.
“He tries to destroy people,” Studrawa said. “He doesn’t just try to position block or just get the job done, he wants to try to destroy you physically every single play that he’s in there.”
While aggressive on the field, Davis brings a kind nature to his leadership position on the team.
Along with Myers, Davis expressed his willingness to help younger players on the team because of the care he has for his teammates.
Myers echoed this sentiment as a responsibility to the future of the program.
“One of the things that I think me and Wyatt could both agree on is that we want to leave Ohio State better than the way we found it. That’s something that’s really important to me,” Myers said May 14 in a media teleconference.
Davis said he saw potential in the unit from the opening three practices thanks to the young guys’ willingness to buy into the culture of the group.
“I do truly believe that we can be better than we were last year, just because of that culture that was instilled with last year’s offensive line which was playing nasty, physical and just trying to dominate,” Davis said. “You can see it in these young guys.”