COLUMBUS — When Ohio State offensive line coach Greg Studrawa was figuratively throwing punches with Thayer Munford on the pluses and minuses of the left tackle possibly leaving for the 2021 NFL draft, he fired off a haymaker.
It was a good haymaker, actually, the kind that lifts a man.
“I think at the end of the season, when we sat down and talked about it, obviously [becoming the first in his family] earning the degree was important,” Studrawa said. “But more: ‘Coach, I haven’t peaked yet. I can be better than this.’
“I think he realized that part of the reason he came back was to attain that level of: ‘I’m not just really good — I’m the best.’ And he’s got a chance. He’s got a chance to be the best tackle in the country if he wants to focus on it and pick up where he left off last year and do those things. He’s got a chance to be the best. And that’s really what he’s chasing.”
As Munford was reminded of that conversation in a Zoom teleconference with the media on Wednesday, he smiled slightly.
“Well, I do believe I will be the best tackle that’s coming out of next year’s draft of course,” Munford said. “I just believe if you keep working at it you’re going to get there.”
But he and Studrawa know there is a lot more to it. Anyone can make a statement and declare a goal.
“I’m happy that he said it, but I’m not satisfied with where I’m at right now yet,” Munford said. “I’ve got to keep building myself, my mental state and my technique, too.”
As Ohio State moves toward the last days of spring drills, something the pandemic took away a year ago, there are many more steps on Munford’s path to the No. 1 tackle in the country. But as Studrawa pointed out, it has been quite the journey even to this milemarker.
“I can’t tell you how far he’s come — it’s unbelievable,” Studrawa said. “The whole thing goes back to that back surgery [three years ago] in the chronology of the thing. He hurt that back and he missed eight months of lifting, of developing, of everything.”
Just to get back on the practice field was an achievement.
“And he came back that next season and played, and he played pretty well,” Studrawa said. “But he knew he wasn’t playing at a level that he was proud of.”
The coach said Munford offered: ‘Coach, I’m so much better than that.’
“Then he gets a year of training in the offseason,” Studrawa said. “He’s as strong as he’s ever been. He’s moving as quick as he ever has at 320 pounds. And his attention to detail and technique has totally changed.”
Last season Munford teamed with Nicholas Petit-Frere on the right side to prove themselves to be among the elite tackle tandems in the nation. This year they possibly could be at the top of that list, bookends to an offensive line that will have at least two new starters at the three interior positions.
While Munford, Petit-Frere and then-freshman Paris Johnson Jr., a five-star prospect, battled in preseason camp for the starting jobs at tackle, this spring the coaches have put Johnson inside at a guard spot in an effort to get their five best linemen on the field, regardless of “major.”
Studrawa said there never was serious of discussion of sliding Munford or Petit-Frere down inside, because why mess with a good thing, especially while keeping mind whomever emerges from the quarterback battle of C.J. Stroud, Jack Miller III and Kyle McCord will be a first-time college starter.
So, yeah, Munford and Petit-Frere are staying put, like corner posts on a fence.
“They were two of the best tackles in the country last year,” Studrawa said. “They proved it. They’re growing. They can help those guys inside.
“And to have two guys on the edge like those two guys that can protect those young quarterbacks, that was really what I thought was going to be the best for us.”