COLUMBUS — Who will start at the two offensive tackle positions for Ohio State has been almost as persistent a question as who will be the Buckeyes’ starting quarterback with the season opener at Indiana a little over two weeks away.
Is it possible freshman Luke Montgomery, of Findlay, could be one of the players to emerge from the uncertainty to become a starter, or at least as a second-team offensive tackle?
The 6-4, 302-pound Montgomery, a top 100 recruit (No. 92 nationally), enrolled at Ohio State in January. He was ranked as the No. 5 offensive lineman nationally in the 2023 recruiting class.
OSU coach Ryan Day has been saying good things about Montgomery since Big Ten Football Media Days in late July when he said he was “very impressed” with him and later said, “He’s in the competition.”
Earlier this week Day said Montgomery was still in the competition. But offensive line coach Justin Frye perhaps injected a note of caution when he told a story on Tuesday which showed how rare it would be to see a freshman offensive lineman start his first college game.
“I have been involved in major college football, whether as a player or a coach since 2002, and I have had one Day 1 true freshman starter up front. It’s just hard. It doesn’t mean it can’t be done. It’s just hard,” Frye said Tuesday.
That one player was UCLA offensive tackle Sean Rhyan, now with the Green Bay Packers. But without injuries to two more experienced players Rhyan would not have started in the Bruins’ 2019 opener, a 24-14 loss to Cincinnati.
“He only started because the week of the game we lost a guy to a concussion and we lost another guy to a high ankle sprain,” Frye said.
Three of last year’s Ohio State offensive line starters were selected in the NFL draft – left tackle Paris Johnson (1st round, Arizona Cardinals), right tackle Dawand Jones (4th round, Cleveland Browns) and center Luke Wypler (6th round, Cleveland Browns). Last year’s starting guards, Donovan Jackson and Matt Jones, are both back at OSU this season.
During spring practice, last year’s sixth offensive lineman, Josh Fryar, was the first-team left tackle and Tegra Tshabola, a guard last year, was at right tackle.
Recently there has been a decidedly different look with Josh Simmons, a transfer from San Diego State, and Tshabola playing left tackle and Fryar and Montgomery moving to right tackle. Carson Hinzman and Victor Cutler Jr. are competing at center, as they did during spring practice.
“It’s starting to shake itself out. You’re trying to play the shell game to find your five best, and we’re really still in the middle of that,” Frye said. “Now they’ve got to stack good days on top of good days. That’s when guys kind of separate themselves.
“They’ve got to be one of the five best and help us win the game. If they’re ready to do that and ready to play then you have to feel comfortable in that,” he said.
Montgomery’s younger brother Ryan, a 4-star quarterback at Findlay High School, announced his list of five finalists in his recruiting on Tuesday night.
It included two Big Ten teams – Michigan and Penn State – along with Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.
Jim Naveau is a sports writer for The Lima News, a division of AIM Media Midwest.