Nicholas Petit-Frere doesn’t care about the rankings.
And College football recruiting folks will tell admit ten times out of ten that no position is harder to evaluate than the offensive line. That’s why so many former 5-star linemen get to college and fail to live up to expectations put on them by people who don’t actually play football.
Petit-Frere, the country’s top-ranked offensive tackle in the Class of 2018, had to just forget about that hype and focus on learning the ropes of college football to take the next step during his freshman year at Ohio State.
“Not worrying about,” Petit-Frere said following the Rose Bowl when asked about his biggest adjustment from All-American at Tampa (Fla.) Berkeley Prep to the practice squad in Columbus. “At the end of the day, we’re all here to compete and get a starting spot and doing whatever we can to help Ohio State win.
“Although it’s a huge competition, we’re fighting, scratching and clawing each to get a spot, we still love each other.”
The truth is that there are dozens of programs around the country where the 6-foot-7, 280-pound Petit-Frere probably would have played considerable minutes this season. He walked into the Ohio State program with his eyes wide open, aware that he’d be fighting for any reps he received during his first year on campus. It’s his selfless attitude that made him the priority that he was for the Buckeyes.
“I will do whatever I can to make this university better,” Petit-Frere said. “I made the decision to come here and I’m very excited to be here.
“I knew it was going to be tough, and I know I had a lot of great people around me, a lot of great players. Isaiah Prince is an amazing tackle. I knew the left tackle position was open, but we had Thayer Munford and Joshua Alabi both competing for that spot. I know Branden Bowen was also a tackle last year, too — then he got hurt, but he was coming back. There’s a bunch of great talent here and I knew it was going to be a big competition. I’ll do whatever I can to make this team better.”
To help make Ohio State better, Petit-Frere is trying to add more than just the average “freshman 15” pounds. The Buckeyes freshman, strength coach Mick Marotti and offensive line coach Greg Studrawa are all focused on fattening up the athletic tackle.
“I mean, it’s tough — at first, I had to really change my eating habits,” Petit-Frere said, lamenting his inability to gain weight this past season. “I went from eating maybe like 5,000 calories a day to trying to pack in 8,000 a day, which is very, very tough. You just find time. It’s tough for me trying to figure out how to balance everything, but you just figure it out. That’s what I’ve learned.”
His ability to learn and adapt is what gives Studrawa confidence that Petit-Frere will compete this spring to be the Buckeyes starting right tackle, a spot he’ll battle for with the aforementioned Alabi and Bowen.
“He’s got to get core strength. He’s still 278, 280 — something like that — we’ve got to get him bigger and stronger,” Studrawa said. “He got here in June and was 268 something like that, so he’s actually gained, through the course of the season, 10 or 12 (pounds). I’d have liked to have seen twenty. So would Mick, and that’s what we’re working on a continuous basis. That’s what he’s going to start now, but it’s got to be good weight. Good strength. That’s what he needs.
“When he puts that weight on? He’s intelligent. He’s tough. He practices hard. All those things he’s at the above-average part of the chart. He just needs to gain weight and strength and understand what it takes to play against big-time guys.”
Though he played in only a handful of snaps for the Buckeyes this past season, Petit-Frere gained invaluable experience and knows what it takes to get better.
“I’m happy with what I did here. I learned a lot,” he said. “I got a lot of experience and from what I’ve heard from the coaching staff, they are also very proud of me and everything I did.
“I feel like if I do what I need to do in the offseason, and I listen to my coaches and I watch a lot of film, I think I’ll be ready to compete for that starting spot.”
After spending the majority of his freshman season on the bench, former 5-star tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere is not focused on the expectations. He’s focused on getting better.