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Sleepers of the Room: Everyone’s favorite big man could be a surprise contributor in 2020

Ohio State’s offensive line is stacked, likely allowing some guys lower in the depth chart to make plays this season.

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

There has been a lot of talk this offseason about Ohio State’s offensive line — and for good reason. The unit is set to be one of the strongest in program history, and should be one of the best groups in the country in 2020.

The team is returning three starters along the front five from a season ago, and they will be replacing the two vacancies with former five-star prospects. There isn’t a single weak point along the entire line, which is spearheaded by perhaps the best interior lineman in the nation in Wyatt Davis, who we discussed at length in our Leaders of the Room series.

We don't know with 100 percent certainly which five guys will be out there come Sept. 3, but we can venture a pretty good guess as to what the starting unit will look like. I took a stab at setting the depth chart so to speak back in June, but in case you needed a refresher, you’re most likely looking at a group comprised of (from left to right): Thayer Munford at left tackle, Harry Miller at left guard, Josh Myers at center, Davis at right guard, and Nicholas Petit-Frere at right tackle.

Davis, Myers and Munford are all returning starters from a year ago, while Miller is a former five-star center who will move over to guard to give the Buckeyes their strongest possible unit. The biggest position battle during preseason camp will be at the right tackle spot, where Petit-Frere — a five-star tackle in 2018 — will look to hold off Paris Johnson Jr. — a five-star tackle in 2020.

That group of four nearly-definite starters and whoever wins the right tackle job will be the guys that take every important snap this season barring injury. However, the team does have some pretty solid depth as well in case of emergency. As previously stated, Miller is a center by trade and could move over in a pinch. Max Wray, a former four-star guy, can play at either tackle spot. Guys like Matthew Jones and Enokk Vimahi can shore up either guard spot. Even Luke Wypler, the No. 2 center in the 2020 class, could fill in up the middle if need be.

But is there any guy outside of the six in contention for the starting spots that could really make a significant splash this season? Enter: Dawand Jones.

I wrote about Jones a bit in my original offensive line breakdown:

At 6-foot-8, 359 pounds, Jones is an absolutely hulking figure on the football field. Looked at as more of a project player, the freshman actually found himself a decent amount of playing time in year one as he appeared in 10 games totaling 90 offensive snaps. One of the most interesting players in the unit, it will be fun to watch as the big man continues to progress.

Originally viewed as someone who would be a long-term development sort of deal, Jones may have actually just been criminally underrated in the recruiting process. The Indiana native was a three-star prospect in the 2019 class, ranked as the No. 86 OT and the No. 1043 player in the country in the 247Sports Composite. Even still, Jones earned 21 scholarship offers, including from big name programs like Auburn, Penn State, Florida, Oregon, USC and of course Ohio State, so there was clearly something to like about his game despite the incredibly low rating.

Jones was able to show some of his potential right out of the gate, and forced his way onto the field as a true freshman — something that isn’t all that easy to do at a place like Ohio State. He appears to be way ahead of schedule in terms of his abilities as a blocker, which is a bit easier when you’re twice the size of the guys you’re blocking. While he could clearly still use more time to develop, theres a real good chance Jones would be in the conversation to start this year had he not been blocked by blue-chip prospects.

Jones’ time as a starter on the Buckeyes offensive line will likely come at some point down the road, but until then he can utilize his size and strength as a key member of Ohio State’s special teams unit this season. Last year, special teams coordinator Matt Barnes used Jones as somewhat of a battering ram on field goal blocks, which opened up big holes like the one Chase Young snuck through to block a kick against Cincinnati. Theres no reason why that won’t be the plan again in year two.

Dawand Jones quickly became a fan favorite almost immediately upon taking the field due to his enormous build and fun personality. While he probably won’t get to strut his stuff in the blocking game outside of garbage time in 2020, he can easily become a huge (no pun intended) member of the special teams unit. There’s a reason Austin Ward over at Lettermen Row predicted Jones to block three field goals for the Buckeyes this year!