COLUMBUS — Ohio State center Josh Myers doesn’t have the answers for who will take over the two open slots on the offensive line yet.
But with a stable of former four- and five-star prospects sitting on the bench working hard and waiting for their turn to be a part of a dominant unit, he’s not too worried about it.
Myers, along with All-American guard Wyatt Davis and multi-year starter Thayer Munford, will have to adapt to a new left guard and right tackle. But the offensive line for the Buckeyes should be just fine, even without a bulk of spring practice to grow together.
“As an offensive line unit, we were taking huge steps this spring,” Myers said. “Even just through the first week, through the first few practices, our young guys were taking huge steps. I could tell that we have some young guys that were going to get better this spring. I think the competition for those two spots, there isn’t a clear-cut answer as to who’s going to start. I think the competition of that was driving all of them so far striving for that spot.
“They were getting better and it was fun to watch. As to who will start, I don’t think any of us know right now, but time will tell.”
It’s still unclear how much time will pass before any of the questions along the offensive line can be sorted out. As the Woody Hayes Athletic Center remains closed and players are forced to be home instead of in Columbus with teammates, it’s just a waiting game to find out when the Buckeyes can return to the practice field.
They were only able to squeeze three practices in before being shut down. In that short window, they got better as a unit. And even before that three-practice stretch, the idea that the offensive line will be just fine after losing two starters became real.
“Not even during spring ball, it was during the winter,” Davis said. “We were fortunate enough to have a lot of guys early enroll and come in early. You saw a lot of young guys like Matt Jones, Harry Miller, Nick Petit-[Frere], Dawand [Jones] start to take that next step through the workouts, grinding. … Paris Johnson, of course, and Luke Wypler. All the early enrollees have been awesome up to this point.”
There’s are plenty of options. That’s what makes the competition so good, and it’s what will make the decision for Ohio State offensive line coach Greg Studrawa and the coaching staff so tough to navigate.
Munford , Davis and Myers have their spots locked up, and they’ll be the core of a unit that has a good chance to win the Joe Moore Award, given to the nation’s top offensive line unit. Davis has a chance to become a two-time All-American. All three could go in the first round of next year’s NFL Draft. And the two new starters will have a built-in advantage of playing alongside three talented veterans.
“I have all the confidence in the world in any of those guys getting in the game and playing,” Myers said. “I think we’ll be better because of that and because of the culture we instilled last season and the expectation. It became the expectation and not the exception. Anything short of us all grading out as champions and dominating was considered a failure. I think the young guys took note of that and are running with it and trying to hold themselves to that level.”
The goals are there. All five offensive linemen have to grade out as champions or it’s a failure. That doesn’t mean the three veterans can grade well and the other two will just be there as placeholders. The standard for the Ohio State offensive line is high. Jonah Jackson and Branden Bowen helped raise the standard, allowing a quarterback to become a Heisman Trophy finalist and a running back to rush for 2,000 yards. Now, they need replaced.
Ohio State didn’t get to practice much to figure out who completes the puzzle to replace Jackson and Bowen. But Davis and Myers are both confident that no matter how the rest of the offseason goes, it doesn’t matter who takes the two empty slots on the offensive line. The Buckeyes should be just as good in the trenches next season — and maybe even better.
But it’ll take more improvement through the summer from the talented, young, inexperienced Buckeyes who haven’t played yet.
“I just felt like as a unit, we were taking such huge strides getting to a [solid] place — [compared to] last year’s spring ball, Josh can attest to this, we were at a very rough spot,” Davis said. “After the first practice [this spring], I felt like whether it was the first team, second team or third team, guys were getting after it, going against the defense.
“I do truly believe that we can be better than we were last year because that culture that was instilled with last year’s offensive line, which was playing nasty, physical and just trying to dominate. You can see that in young guys. ”