Ohio State football Josh Simmons

Buckeyes May Have Found Their Starting Tackles, No Joshing

A lot can change in a week. At Ohio State, that especially includes the offensive line.

When the Buckeyes opened fall camp two weeks ago today, the offensive line featured Josh Fryar at left tackle and Josh Simmons at right tackle. It was not a surprise considering left tackle is where Fryar spent his entire spring and right tackle is where Simmons played the year before at San Diego State.

Less than a week later, however, offensive line coach Justin Frye pulled the ol’ switch-a-roo and moved Fryar to right tackle and Simmons to left.

And it happened just as Fryar was feeling good at his new position.

“Probably practice three or four into fall camp I felt really comfortable on the left side and then switched, and I said ‘Okay, sounds good,'” Fryar said this week.

It wasn’t a big deal for Fryar, who has played just about everywhere in his time at Ohio State. Moving to right tackle, however, returned him to the spot he played last year. He even got a spot start there against Indiana last season.

The move has been welcomed by Fryar, who mentioned getting help from defensive ends JT Tuimoloau, Jack Sawyer, and Kenyatta Jackson on getting him better each and every day.

For some, moving positions after 15 spring practices and three or four practices in fall camp would be a pretty big deal. For Fryar, he was always ready for a move.

“I always envisioned me moving,” he said. “I think I’m a plug-and-play guy. I can play all five. And I want no drop off when I’m playing a different position. I want everybody to be like, ‘Oh, he can play this and play that.’”

That’s not all he wants people to say when they mention his name.

“I want them to say the best pass-pro tackle in college football,” he added.

The New Guy

Following spring practice, the Buckeyes went into the transfer portal and landed Josh Simmons. The addition gave them a lineman with starting experience — he was the Aztecs starting right tackle last year as a redshirt freshman. But it also gave them three Joshes in the offensive line room, which includes freshman center Joshua Padilla.

Before Frye could figure out his best five linemen, he first needed to find a pecking order for his three Joshes. Simmons told them that teammates previously had tried to combine “Josh” and “Simmons” and just call him “Jimmy.” Frye adopted this in-house usage, and now on the field or in the film room if Simmons needs to be called on or singled out, they’ll go with “Jimmy.”

Some players — like The Original Josh — will take that one step farther.

“I call him ‘Jimmy’ or I call him ‘Jimbo.’ Yeah, I call him ‘Jimbo,'” Fryar admitted. “I’m the original Josh. I’m the oldest Josh in the room, so yeah.”

Once the name was squared away, then came the game. Simmons eased his way in over the first few practices of fall camp, or at least tried to. It wasn’t long before he was moved to left tackle, which was a brand new experience for him. It took some time for him to be comfortable, but again, it wasn’t just the move that creates the discomfort.

“I mean, you’re not just going against anybody in practice now,” Simmons said with a chuckle. “So I think the biggest thing is just kind of honing those techniques and stuff like that.”

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Trusting The Process

The Buckeyes entered fall camp needing to find two new starting tackles and a starting center. Starting guards Matt Jones and Donovan Jackson return, and both are potential All-Big Ten players.

While the tackle jobs have not officially been won, they are being whittled down. Simmons and redshirt freshman Tegra Tshabola are competing at left tackle, while Fryar and true freshman Luke Montgomery are at right tackle.

The position switch is a new one for Simmons, but the solution is as old as time.

“You’ve just kind of got to figure it out,” he said. “Like I said, I’m going against some really good dudes. Me and Tegra and all those guys, we’ll kind of stay after practice sometimes and just get it right. Put in that extra work so that the next day can come a little bit easier.”

It has been a step up in competition for Simmons. Aside from dealing with Ohio State’s defensive ends, he’s also competing with linemates who could be starters just about anywhere else. It has been a whirlwind process for him, from learning the scheme to embracing the culture, Simmons has picked it all up pretty quickly. When asked if he is now comfortable, however, he didn’t want to go overboard.

“I don’t think ‘comfortable’ is the word, but I kind of knew what type of program this was,” he said. “So I kind of knew that you’re gonna have to really dive headfirst in this and really empty the tank day in and day out, so that’s really all I try to do.”

Embracing The Culture

Simmons said he’s been welcomed in by the rest of the linemen from the first day he arrived. That doesn’t happen everywhere, but it happened for him at Ohio State and has left a lasting impression.

“I think that for a transfer at some other schools, they’d kind of test his waters a little bit,” he said. “But here it was just open arms, like immediate arrival. Just guys, ‘Hey, you want to go hang out after lift,’ stuff like that. So it was amazing.”

It’s not like the Ohio State coaches could hide the fact that they went into the portal for some additional help. Simmons’ arrival wasn’t a secret, and even if it was, it wasn’t going to remain that way once practice started.

“Athleticism. Freaky athleticism. Watching film and seeing him going up on a linebacker and stuff, it’s kind of scary how he moves,” Fryar said. “I think it was the first day of camp I saw him go up on a linebacker and I was like, ‘God that guy can move.’ I wish I had that movement.”

Playing left tackle is different than any other position on the offensive line, even if much of it is just added perception. Regardless, Josh Simmons is on the verge of being named the starter at left tackle. Even if he’s not ready yet, he’s confident he will be when the time is right.

“There’s a lot of expectations,” he admitted. “I kind of take it with a grain of salt. You know, maybe I’m kind of making some progress right now but I’m still trying to work to get better at it.”

After a handful of switches between the tackles, it looks like the movement is done. The comfort levels are rising each day, and probably nowhere more so than with the Ohio State coaches themselves, who now have a much deeper offensive line than they did four months ago.

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