Justin Frye Ohio State Offensive Line Coach

Justin Frye Searching For A Top Five On Ohio State Offensive Line

Ohio State offensive line coach Justin Frye would seem to have a pretty simple job — find a starter to replace the one guy the Buckeyes lost from last season.

Right guard Matt Jones is the lone departed starter from last year’s offensive line, which would seem to indicate in overly simple terms that Frye just needs to find a right guard and call it a day.

But it’s quite a bit more complicated than that.

The Buckeyes are going to always be working on building the depth on the offensive line, but they are also working to find the best combination of starters.

A number of players have gotten a look at right guard. Sophomore Luke Montgomery has gotten the most work. Redshirt sophomore Tegra Tshabola has gotten a little bit of time there, as has starting right tackle Josh Fryar.

The Buckeyes also have Carson Hinzman and Seth McLaughlin competing to be the starting center this year. Both have starting experience, and whichever way this competition goes, one of the two would also likely get involved in the right guard conversation as well. That part hasn’t happened yet, but Friday will be just the 11th practice of what is going to be dozens of practices before the Buckeyes actually play their season opener.

In other words, there’s a long way to go.

“We’re working on the right side. We are still trying to find five,” Frye said this week. “We’re going in platoons. We’re seeing who works well with each other. Who’s at what spots and how that works. And we just finished [practice] nine, so we’ve got a lot more still to go.”

Five To Start

The initial quest is always to find the best five offensive linemen, then slot them where they fit best. If both Carson Hinzman and Seth McLaughlin are two of the five best, then they will be in the lineup. If Luke Montgomery is one of the five best, then he’ll be there. The same can be said for Tegra Tshabola and redshirt freshman Austin Siereveld.

Frye has options. He also has time.

“But just as a whole, like the whole group, yeah, we’re still trying to find those five and what that is, I don’t have an answer,” he said. “I’ll keep bouncing back to that question over and over, but good gradable reps versus obviously a good defensive front. So as we come out of this thing, we’re gonna have a good picture for where we’re headed.”

The Ohio State offensive linemen aren’t just being put into different situations, they’re also being pitted against different defensive linemen. As Frye looks for a starting right guard to emerge, they’re all getting looks against defensive tackles Tyleik Williams, Ty Hamilton, Hero Kanu, and Kayden McDonald. Those are closed-book tests and there is no answer key.

“You’ve got to make sure that you’re getting really good gradable reps versus our front,” Frye said. “Whoever’s next to you at tackle or center or guard, wherever that may be. Like, if you’re going against Tyleik, you’re going against Ty, you’re going against Hero, K-Mac and these guys, now we’re getting really good, gradable reps that way.”

The Cream Will Rise To The Top

With two-thirds of spring practice now in the rearview mirror, information is being gained. Repetitions are being won, lost, and graded. And eventually after 15 practices this spring, there will be more knowns than unknowns.

“I mean as we grade you can see the guys that grade well in critical situations,” Frye said. “We have to put them in third-and-long situations. We have to put them in coming outs and we have to put them in short yardage. You’ve got to manufacture enough of those so you can see in critical situations how these guys respond. As opposed to just a controlled rep or drill all the time. And then you just grade those and then the cream always rises to the top. So you’re gonna see that and it’s gonna shake itself out.”

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