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Depth, health on Ohio State offensive line critical during stretch run

Dawand Jones-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football
Ohio State freshman offensive lineman Dawand Jones is developing to provide depth. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Question Of The Day

Depth, health on Ohio State offensive line critical during stretch run

The speculation, debate and conversations about Ohio State never end, and Lettermen Row is always ready to dive into the discussions. All week long, senior writer Austin Ward will field topics about the Buckeyes submitted by readers and break down anything that’s on the minds of the Best Damn Fans in the Land. Have a question that needs to be tackled, like the one today about the Ohio State and the offensive line? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.

Thayer Munford got up from his media session on Wednesday night at Ohio State, smiled and headed back to the locker room — without a limp.

Was he annoyed by all the questions about his injured ankle?

“Yeah, that was annoying,” Munford told Lettermen Row. “But next week you won’t have any reason to ask.”

Aside from rating himself fully healthy coming out of the off date when the cameras were rolling, that comment on the side was the surest sign that Munford has emerged on the other side of his injury in much better shape for the stretch run. And that’s a big deal considering what’s coming for the top-ranked Buckeyes at the end of the month — especially if the status of key backup Josh Alabi remains up in the air.

Munford didn’t shy away from criticizing the way he played against Wisconsin, which surely added to his frustration while dealing with the pain in his ankle during a season in which he was hoping to finally get a bit of luck with his health. The junior’s struggles were understandable since he was just a couple weeks removed from a high-ankle sprain that severely limited his mobility. But he’s now had two full weeks without a game to get treatment, rest and more practice reps to get back to the level he expects.

Alabi’s situation is much more unclear at this point, which is why there’s been such an emphasis on getting sophomore Nicholas Petit-Frere ready as the backup for both Munford and right tackle Branden Bowen. And it’s also why the Buckeyes are expecting that massive freshman Dawand Jones won’t redshirt, and he could wind up providing help in case more issues pop up for a unit that finally has depth and flexibility after years of living on the edge.

The trick for the Buckeyes, though, will be making sure they can get through the next two weeks against lightweights Maryland and Rutgers without incident and be as close to full strength in the trenches as possible. The balance is ensuring that Munford gets enough work to be in shape for those potential four-quarter battles against Penn State and Michigan while also bringing Petit-Frere and Jones along in their development process.

“I think that guys need to play,” Day said. “They need to play in games, for sure. Every game we go into, we’re ready to take the thing into the fourth quarter, win a game in the fourth quarter, play 60 minutes. We go from there. We try not to think too far ahead of that because then we start getting ahead of ourselves.

“Same thing is going to happen this week, guys are going to be ready to roll, they’re going to play for 60 minutes and we are going to win the game in the fourth quarter and go from there.”

Thayer Munford made it clear that he’s ready for that if needed. And that should allow him to field a few different questions next week and put that ankle injury behind him.

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