COLUMBUS — The workload at Ohio State was light this spring for Thayer Munford.
The junior left tackle already had his spot in the lineup locked up. There was no position battle, so he didn’t need the reps as much as other guys.
So with his nagging injuries still lingering from last season, Munford took the spring as a time to recover and get his body right for this fall. Because this season, he’ll be the anchor of the Ohio State offensive line that will replace four starters. The unit will lean on Munford.
That was proven when coach Ryan Day was asked about his offensive line. He mentioned one player in particular.
“Thayer Munford is really looking strong right now,” Day said.
The offensive line could’ve used Munford this spring. With the four departures, including a surprise announcement from former center Michael Jordan to bolt for the NFL, the Buckeyes were dangerously thin along the offensive line. The injuries, depth issues and attrition forced the Buckeyes to dive deep into the depth chart and give younger players valuable spring reps.
They’re hoping it pays dividends in the fall.
“Oh yeah, we’re still fighting it, there’s no question,” Ohio State offensive line coach Greg Studrawa said. “With Thayer being out this spring again, that’s another blow to the guys. But the good news is that those young kids get a ton of reps, and that’s what have this spring is a chance to get those guys as many repetitions as they can get to get better.
“Then we’ll get Thayer back in the fall and move forward.”
Moving forward was moving into the summer workouts that happened in May and June before camp starts at the end of July. Moving forward also meant adding a graduate transfer student — Jonah Jackson from Rutgers — to presumably start at left guard. He was an honorable mention All-Big Ten performer a season ago for the Scarlet Knights, and he helps the Buckeyes immediately.
Moving forward meant Munford is finally healthy and flying around through the trenches making plays. The left side of the line seems to be the strong side for the Buckeyes.
“I have high hopes for the offensive line, seeing the way that they’re running around right now,” Day said.
Munford’s left tackle spot is a big part of that, and there isn’t much of a competition surrounding Munford. His backup, Joshua Alabi, is a senior who sat behind Munford last season, but started in the Rose Bowl win over Washington.
Alabi hasn’t switched to the right side; he’s still working at left tackle. When Munford was out for the spring, Alabi was the starting left tackle.
Alabi loved the reps, but Munford’s presence was missed throughout spring camp. Alabi wanted Munford on the field, even if it meant sacrificing those first-team reps.
“He’s around practice, keeping us motivated,” Alabi said in the spring. “It’s good seeing him out here.”
While Munford had to stand around at practice, teach his backups and younger guys and take mental reps, Ohio State’s silver lining was building depth that it didn’t have last season.
The other side of the coin, though, is a lack of unit building. The offensive line has to tick. Munford wasn’t out there in the spring. Jackson wasn’t out there this spring. The Buckeyes couldn’t build chemistry up front.
“That five’s not going to be together yet,” Studrawa said. “The guys that are going to be in there, Thayer especially, the cohesiveness of the group that’s playing, obviously with Thayer out, is not there.”
Munford is there now, and that might be the biggest key for the Ohio State offensive line.