Ohio State Buckeyes: Offensive linemen adjusting to new roles

COLUMBUS — When it comes to Josh Fryar playing left tackle at Ohio State, he might not be The One yet, but he is playing like The Next One this spring.

Offensive line coach Justin Frye reminded reporters who gathered around him at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center on Thursday he has not anointed any new starters yet, but he sounded as if he likes what he has seen from Fryar, a fourth-year junior from Indiana.

“He’s playing the position to own the position,” Frye said. “He’s not just taking reps. He’s using the reps, you know? And that has shown with him so far.”

Having been the sixth man on the line last year, Fryar is the most experienced of the potential new starters.

He saw somewhat regular action as the third tight end in short-yardage sets, and he started one game at right tackle when Dawand Jones was injured.

While Frye suggested that being close to starting last season motivated Fryar to get better every day, Fryar said he’s getting his motivation now from knowing some Ohio State fans are likely worried about a drop in performance from All-American left tackle Paris Johnson Jr., who is preparing for the NFL Draft.

“I feed into it,” Fryar said. “If I see something on Twitter or something and they’re talking bad about me, it’s just like fuel for me. It’s just motivation.”

Center and right tackle are also open after Luke Wypler and Jones, respectively, decided to move on to the NFL, but Frye did not handicap the race at either of those spots, either.

“Guys have been competing,” Frye said. “We got to play the game a little bit today for the first time versus the defense so it was good for the kids to go out and play the game.

“We’re rolling a lot of guys so I mean, I know that question (about new starters) will come up at some point and the answer is I still don’t know. We’re rolling a ton of guys with the 1s, and we like it that way.”

At center, Frye has redshirt freshman Carson Hinzman competing with Victor Cutler, a transfer from Louisiana Monroe, while right tackle is a battle between third-year sophomore Zen Michalski and Tegra Tshabola, a redshirt freshman from Lakota West.

Frye pointed out there is a lot to accomplish at each position, particularly since all of the competitors are at new positions.

On top of that, Hinzman and Tshabola are going through spring practice for the first time after they enrolled last summer, and Cutler is getting used to a new level of play at a new school.

“Twelve months ago, (Hinzman) was still like baling hay and knocking icicles off the barn up in Wisconsin, so now there’s (Ohio State defensive linemen) Mike Hall and Tyleik (Williams) and, and all those guys in front of them. Just getting out and competing that way has been good to see. Because you never know how these guys are gonna go until you let him go play the game.

“And the same with Victor. I mean, Victor played tackle last year. We brought Victor in here to be the inside guy, so now adding the element of putting a ball in your hand and blocking the nose guard at Ohio State. You know, there’s some adjustment there, but I think those guys who really haven’t done a lot are biting into it.”

In talking about the potential centers, Frye also mentioned Joshua Padilla, a true freshman from Wayne, where he was the left tackle for the Warriors.

“Now all of a sudden, hey, here’s the football, so you’re playing one-handed. And it’s not wrestling in the (Schottenstein Center) for a state tournament and it’s not playing, you know, Springfield anymore. You’re playing a really good defense. So all those guys have they’ve taken their lumps and they’ve shown some really good stuff so far.”

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