The Buckeyes went into the transfer portal for a number of players this offseason, but perhaps the likeliest to end up as a starter is offensive tackle Josh Simmons.
Simmons started every game at right tackle for San Diego State last year as a redshirt freshman, so now he joins this Ohio State football team as a third-year player with a year of starting experience to build upon.
The Buckeyes, meanwhile, are looking for two new starters at offensive tackle after losing Paris Johnson and Dawand Jones to the 2023 NFL Draft.
Ohio State offensive line coach Justin Frye went through the spring with fourth-year junior Josh Fryar at left tackle, and a combination of redshirt sophomore Zen Michalski and redshirt freshman Tegra Tshabola at right tackle.
Coming out of spring, head coach Ryan Day was concerned about the offensive line, so it was no surprise that the Buckeyes went hard after Simmons once he entered the portal.
“He’s got a really good skill set,” Frye said this week. “Younger guy. But the good thing about him was I recruited him out of high school the first time. Had some awareness of his skill set. I had him in camp. I understand what he can do, and then watched his tape last year. He’s going to have a chance to come in and help us win games, and that’s what he’s got to do.”
Frye recruited Simmons while he was the offensive line coach at UCLA. The Bruins filled up on the offensive line before Simmons was ready to commit, so they drifted apart, but the familiarity remained.
“You know the way the dynamics work, but just having some common ground of working with him before and being out in that area is obviously a huge help,” he said. “And then for him just understanding what this place is, what it can do for him, what he can do for the team.”
Simmons has instantly become the most experienced starter among Ohio State’s tackles, which begs the question of whether he will be on the left side or right side.
Frye isn’t ready to answer that question yet. The coaches have been on the road recruiting since Simmons arrived, and there is no practicing going on right now. The only thing Frye knows for certain is that Simmons will be practicing somewhere.
“At tackle,” he said with a chuckle. “Yeah, tackle.”
The good news for Josh Simmons (and the Buckeyes) is that even though he is new to the team, he is not new to college football. The learning curve is flatter for Simmons than for the four early-enrollee offensive linemen this year, for instance.
“I mean, he’s played in major college football games,” Frye said. “So the speed and the intensity of that ramp from high school to college is something we have to learn. He’s been able to do that already. Now he’s coming here and as you know, we tell kids all the time in recruiting and we’re talking like your Tuesday practice is just as hard if not harder than most games you’re playing.
“So that level has got to raise even coming here to Ohio State. It’s still going to be a jump, but not as significant as these other guys. But yeah, being in a strength program, being in the accountability of time management, all those things in college, definitely shortens the learning curve a little bit.”
So far, Simmons is doing the right things. He’s a mature third-year player who knows what it took to win a starting job, and what is required to keep it. Ohio State is a different animal than San Diego State, so this summer he will be working with the strength staff to get where he needs to be. He will also be working with the OSU offensive line staff as much as “we can legally do,” according to Frye.
Justin Frye doesn’t know where Simmons will end up just yet, but he knows that the competition on the offensive line just got better.
“Absolutely. And that’s for both sides. That’s what I’ve said — we’ve got to play the five best,” Frye said. “So is Josh Simmons a left or a right? Is he staying at right? Is he staying only at left? Is the other Josh hanging around? I don’t have all those answers yet. They’ve got to have a good summer with Mick and have good stuff out [on the practice field]. But yes, they’ll all be setting right sides and left sides. They’ll all be doing individual drills so that we can keep fighting through that.”
[Josh Simmons header photo courtesy of the San Diego Union Tribune.]