The Buckeye offensive line
Thayer Munford and Nicholas Petit-Frere were very good Buckeye linemen. And they’re gone. Don’t worry, though. The Buckeye offensive line looks to be in excellent shape, starting with center Luke Wypler.
If you’re like me, you spend a lot (way too much) time surfing the net, and reading college football stories. I ran across a College Football News story, ranking the top ten offensive lines for 2022. If you wonder why the Buckeye defense had so much trouble stopping the run against certain teams last year, these rankings explain a great deal. For 2022, Oregon is ranked No. 1, Utah is No. 5, and Michigan is No. 6. While the Bucks are unlikely to play Oregon or Utah in 2022, we can look forward to the lines of Wisconsin (No. 3) and Notre Dame (No. 8), as well as that of TTUN. The good news for OSU fans is that the Buckeye O-line is ranked No. 2.
As you’ll remember, last year’s line was made up of Wypler at center and four natural tackles playing the other four positions: Munford (LG), Petit-Frere (LT), Dawand Jones (RT), and Paris Johnson (LG). With their size and strength, they did a great job protecting quarterback C.J. Stroud, yielding only 17 sacks in 13 games. Considering how often Ohio State passed, that’s an incredibly low number. The running game, however, was inconsistent. Despite having the top offense in the nation, the Buckeye rushing attack ranked only fifth in the Big Ten.
In January, OSU announced the hiring of a new offensive line coach, as Justin Frye came from UCLA to replace Greg Studrawa.
With new techniques or even a new system, a first-year coach might spell some adjustment issues. But I don’t expect them with this group. Wypler, Johnson, and Dawand Jones played almost every meaningful offensive snap last season. That’s a lot of experience at center and the two tackle slots. Moreover, Matthew Jones, who’s likely to start in 2022 at right guard, had 459 snaps last year and two starts. I look for second-year Donovan Jackson to line up at left guard. Jackson was a five-star recruit from last year’s class and looked sharp when he got on the field.
Depth might be a problem, but the starting five is really good. If they can stay healthy, I think that the Buckeyes deserve that ranking as having one of the nation’s best O-lines.
The center position and Luke Wypler
This time last year, we all knew that the Buckeyes would be fielding a new quarterback. Whether it would Stroud or Kyle McCord or Jack Miller, it would be someone with almost no experience leading the team. But there was some experience on the line and certainly, with Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, the receivers were veterans. Then came the surprising, and very sad, news about center Harry Miller.
Miller had been a five-star recruit in the 2019 class, the No. 2 center, and a top-30 overall player in the class. Miller was a tackle in high school (as are most offensive linemen who go on to play big-time college football), with a reputation as a strong run blocker and offers from everybody. Before the 2021 season began, Miller conferred with head coach Ryan Day, informing Day that he had some mental health problems, including suicidal thoughts. Day properly referred him to mental health experts.
In March of this year, Miller announced his medical retirement from football. I applaud Miller’s candor. Removing the shroud of secrecy that too often surrounds mental health helps us all to understand better a problem that disrupts the lives of so many. I’m sure that all Buckeye fans join me in wishing Harry Miller only the best.
With Miller’s essentially sitting out the 2021 season (he played in only two games), backup center Luke Wypler stepped up, and he and Stroud developed together. Wypler was recruited in the 2020 class, where he was rated a four-star and the second-best center in the class, even though he, too, played tackle in high school in Montvale New Jersey. Going into the 2021 season, Wypler had seen action in only one game in his true freshman season (2020) and thus had been red-shirted.
Wypler was surprisingly good in 2021 and led all offensive players in snaps. He seemingly developed a good rapport with Stroud, and the pair rarely had problems with snaps. Nor was there much pressure on Stroud from up the middle. Wypler appeared as an honorable mention on some All-Big Ten teams and is likely to receive more attention this year.
The Buckeyes will count on Wypler’s savvy and his leadership, as he anchors the line and calls the blocking assignments. The offensive line should be one of Ohio State’s genuine strengths this season. They need to cut back on the false starts and holding calls — and to get out on their blocks when runs are called. Watch Luke Wypler become a star this season.