Depending on the mock draft, it is possible find a pair of former Buckeye offensive tackles landing in the first round of this spring’s NFL Draft.
Left tackle Paris Johnson and right tackle Dawand Jones are two of the top prospects at their position this year, and both are projected to be selected in the top two rounds of the draft. Johnson could land in the top 10, while Jones could see his name called later in the first round by a team looking for a right tackle.
Together at Ohio State, the duo formed one of the best tackle tandems in college football last year. The void they leave this year is cavernous. The Buckeyes will eventually replace them, but it’s a process that will go beyond the spring.
On day one of practice this past Tuesday, fourth-year junior Josh Fryar was at left tackle, having moved from his spot as the backup right tackle a year ago. Backup left tackle Zen Michalski moved to right tackle, where he is now competing with redshirt freshman Tegra Tshabola, who was a backup right guard a year ago
“We did, we moved Josh to left,” head coach Ryan Day explained on Tuesday. “We felt like he had enough experience. He felt comfortable making that move. We’ll see how that goes as we start to put the pads on. It’s hard with no pads, but watched him move his feet and that was really good. We’ve got Zen and Tegra on the other side, and so we’ll watch the film and kind of see where they’re at. First day, it’s kind of hard to tell, but I don’t think anybody looked out of place. And they’re going against a good front, so we’re gonna get a great evaluation as we head through 15 practices.”
Fryar is the most experienced returning tackle, having played snaps on offense in every game last year. Some of those snaps came as an extra tight end, and others came at guard, but Fryar also got a start against Indiana at right tackle when Dawand Jones was out. Through it all, Fryar handled his business. Now his business moves to a glitzier part of town, leaving a pair of unproven backups to battle it out at right tackle.
“Zen was at left tackle and Tegra was at right guard, so now they’ve both kind of taken on that right tackle position,” Day said. “We spent a lot of time figuring out if that was the right move, but we felt like making Josh the left tackle, and then really having those guys compete at right tackle was the right play. It’ll take a little bit of adjustment for them. Certainly for Tegra, making the move from inside to outside and then Zen from left to right, but Tegra will be into year two. Tegra got a lot of two reps for us last year. We see a lot of potential in Tegra, and I think every rep you get in, Tegra is gonna to pay off in the long run. I think it’s a really good investment. Hoping that he can make a push.”
Any time a second-year offensive lineman can push for a starting spot like Tshabola is doing, that’s an encouraging sign for future production. Even if the player doesn’t win the job, it’s a sign that they are more advanced than most linemen their age. It’s also a message to the third-year Michalski that if he wants to win a job, this is the year to make it happen.
The two will likely be battling past spring ball, which wouldn’t be unusual given that both players are still looking to play their best ball.
“Zen, this is a big year for him,” Day said. “This is year three. Again, I don’t think we’ll get an idea until we put the pads on, but even then, we were talking about it as an offensive staff at this time last year and even to the middle and towards the end of spring, our guys had a hard time blocking our front.
“I think they did a great job closing the gap throughout the summer, and shoot Paris has now got a chance to be a top 10 pick. So there’s a lot of work to be done. But certainly those guys are going to have to step up and this is a great opportunity for them to do it over the next 15 practices.”