COLUMBUS — A simple block just isn’t good enough for Paris Johnson.
The Ohio State freshman wants pure, utter, undeniable domination every time he puts his hands on an opponent. And more often than not, the five-star tackle got exactly that will building himself into the nation’s top player at his position.
Clip after clip on an eye-popping highlight reel shows Johnson driving helpless defenders into the ground or ushering them helpfully to the sideline, which is why every major program in the country was trying to pry him out of the state of Ohio. But the Cincinnati product stuck with the Buckeyes, and now he’s preparing for a transition to the next level and his chance to show why the expectations for his career are so high.
“That was great [in high school], but now that I’ve early enrolled here, that stuff doesn’t mean anything unless I carry those same exact actions and mentality,” Johnson said in February during winter workouts. “I have to replicate it here. I can’t go from throwing dudes on the ground, they’re getting up, I’m diving on them in high school to [not doing it here]. It’s even more important now.
“With the help of [strength coach] Mick [Marotti] in the weight room, [offensive line coach Greg] Studrawa once we started doing field work in spring ball, they’re gonna put me in the best position so I can get back to doing that at the college level. I feel like a lot of people will say in high school I was looking like Orlando Pace was in college. I want to be able to do what Orlando Pace did in college. He was throwing people around like he was at Princeton High School, you know what I mean? Like grown men in college. That’s everybody’s goal. I would like to be able to do that here.”
Johnson enrolled early with the Buckeyes to get started chasing that dream, and nothing the program saw before the pandemic shut down spring camp suggested he couldn’t eventually become a star for the program at left tackle.
Will Johnson be a Day One starter like Pace famously was for the Buckeyes? That remains to be seen since Ohio State also has another former top-ranked tackle recruit in Nicholas Petit-Frere on the roster ahead of Johnson with two extra years of experience under his belt. But the fact that it’s even a conversation is a clear sign of how much potential the coaching staff sees in Johnson, and his development is only getting started.
What made Paris Johnson the top-ranked tackle in the country? How much can Ohio State reasonably expect from the freshman in his first year with the program? Where will Johnson have to get better to help the Buckeyes as early as possible? Former Ohio State and NFL offensive tackle Reid Fragel broke down the high-school highlight reel to answer those questions for Lettermen Row in the latest episode of BuckIQ.
Roll the tape!
Lettermen Row senior writer Austin Ward contributed the editorial content for this post.