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 on 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? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.
Breakout players for this year and what OL will surprise people this year?
— Marines4Life (@Highway0308) June 4, 2018
Maybe Thayer Munford isn’t emerging completely out of nowhere, since the massive sophomore offensive lineman was a four-star recruit and is also coming off a debut season where he was trusted enough to come off the Ohio State bench in a key situation on the road against Michigan. But Munford’s rise still goes down as being remarkably rapid for the Buckeyes, particularly at a spot that tends to take a bit more time for physical and mental development than other positions before players are typically ready to handle the responsibilities and thrive.
And since that would have been true even if Munford was likely being tabbed for a starting role at right tackle, it goes double now that it looks like he’s going to be the leading option to handle the all-important left side. So, when it comes to searching for breakout players and a breakdown of the offensive line, Munford figures to be a key figure on both accounts for Ohio State.
For all the justifiable focus on the quarterbacks during spring camp, the reps and competition for playing time might have arguably been even more important on the offensive line. Whether it was Dwayne Haskins or Joe Burrow leading the attack, neither would have been at their most effective without a capable group of blockers in front of them. And the fact that offensive line coach Greg Studrawa closed out those workouts with Munford lining up at left tackle spoke volumes about his importance to the defending Big Ten champions — especially with a proven, veteran tackle in Isaiah Prince on hand.
“I wouldn’t say that’s set yet, but it’s pretty close to being true,” Studrawa said in April when asked if Munford was his left tackle. ” … We tested the combinations, and that’s what you want to find out [is where they’re the best fits]. We absolutely found out.”
That discovery process didn’t reveal any problems with Prince. The Buckeyes had consistently pointed out how well the senior had been performing in practice, continuing to build off his bounce-back campaign last year following his initial rough patches in the starting lineup. And that further suggests that it’s more a matter of Munford tapping into his enormous potential and growing into a key role rather than Prince just handing it over, which bodes well for the program as it tries to put together another unit capable of bulldozing a path to a championship like the dominant Ohio State offensive line did in 2014.
There’s still work to be done and it’s perhaps somewhat premature or unfair to expect Munford to blossom into a superstar so quickly. But the coaching staff is clearly betting on him, and more often than not, Ohio State has proven to be a winner when it comes to picking talent.
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