COLUMBUS — Josh Fryar hasn’t been named Ohio State’s starting left tackle yet, but he’s hungry for the job. So hungry that he said he feeds off the negativity on social media regarding him potentially replacing consensus first-team All-American Paris Johnson Jr. on the blind side.
“If I see something on Twitter or something, and they’re talking about me and talking bad about me, then it’s just like fuel for me,” Fryar said Thursday after the Buckeyes’ fourth spring practice.
Fryar called those three years “rough.” It was a stretch that started during the COVID-19-affected 2020 season. The following year, he tore his ACL. Last season, he was Ohio State’s No. 6 offensive lineman, a spot that second-year Buckeyes O-Line coach Justin Frye labeled “the hardest position” for anyone up front.
“He wore 41, he went in for some of our extra linemen packages,” Frye said. “Knowing he was right there, but you really couldn’t get over the cusp. Guys take that two ways: They go on cruise control, or they just keep fighting and battling because, ‘I’m the next guy up, and it might be me.’”
Fryar took the latter approach, and his number was called Nov. 12 against Indiana. With Dawand Jones sidelined, Fryar — a Beech Grove, Indiana, native — got his first career start, against his hometown school no less. Despite having played only 198 snaps in a Buckeyes uniform before that weekend, he made the most of a full game at right tackle.
The 6-foot-6, 320-pounder registered Pro Football Focus pass and run blocking grades of 79.4 and 72.4, respectively, which were fourth and tied for third among all Buckeyes players in the Week 11 blowout victory. Fryar didn’t allow a single pressure in pass protection, and he was the play-side tackle for most of running back Miyan Williams‘ explosive runs in the first half.
Fryar said his confidence kicked in a month and a half before that game, though. It was the Wisconsin week. He wasn’t starting, but he knew was going to be involved as that extra tight end.
“I knew Coach Frye could trust me to step in and play that role,” Fryar said.
That was when Fryar’s self-assured aura began to take form at Ohio State. Fryar didn’t walk or talk with the confidence he has now when he arrived in Columbus.
“I had to build that up,” he said. “Because I’d get nervous every single time for practice the past two years, my freshman and sophomore year. But, now, I look forward to practice. If I get beat by J.T. [Tuimoloau] or Jack [Sawyer], I’ll walk up to them and ask, ‘Hey what did I do? Would you show me?’ And just get better and learn from that.”
Tuimoloau, the Buckeyes’ top defensive end, vouched for Fryar’s open mindedness and illustrated the genuine connection between the Ohio State players on either side of the trenches.
“On the field, you guys might not see the love between us,” Tuimoloau said. “But off the field we’re always talking, always trying to know what we’re doing wrong or what do they see. And competing against Josh since my freshman year, the love and competition never left.
“So that’s something I see in him. He’s always asking and always learning.”
Fryar said he grew the most in his three years last season because he was able to absorb information from Johnson and Jones, soon-to-be early-round NFL Draft picks. While sitting for a sizeable part of another season wasn’t easy for Fryar, moving around as a hole filler as much as he did in 2022 made him more versatile.
It also made his move from right tackle to left tackle — which he referred to as the sixth or seventh position change of his career — less dramatic.
The major difference is your stance and the play calls are flipped, he said. But there is an added duty that comes with playing left tackle, in particular.
“I feel like I’m the blind side for Kyle and Devin,” Fryar said. “If they don’t feel safe, and I give up something, then that’s on me. That’s my fault.”
It’s a responsibility Fryar is embracing.
“I think they’re gonna be satisfied with what they see,” he noted, in reference to “Buckeye Nation.”
Frye added: “Ryan [Day] said it really well after practice. You get to a spring, and it’s “a new” for everybody. New titles, new age groups, new positions, new freshmen to sophomore. I think Josh so far in spring has just embraced that role of like, ‘OK, I’m now the next year guy. I’m the veteran guy in the room now. I’ve played some, I’ve been around the expectations.’”
Josh Fryar is repping at left tackle for Ohio State this spring. (Matt Parker/Lettermen Row)
Fryar described himself as tough and reliable in pass protection and as a “mauler” in run blocking. In summation, he feels “very prepared” for a yearlong starting gig.
A big reason why, he said, is the way the Buckeyes train in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. He explained that when he first saw game action he was surprised it wasn’t as fast as he thought it would be. Fryar believes that’s a testament to how difficult Ohio State practices are. All of those practice reps, plus 329 offensive snaps in games, have made him into a more experienced player than most first-year starters would be.
He also has comfortability with the guy next to him: junior left guard Donovan Jackson, one of Ohio State’s two returning starting O-Linemen. They played together on the right side with the second unit two years ago.
“That chemistry has kind of boiled over to this year,” Jackson said. “We’re always staying in constant communication because that’s what you have to do when you’re working with someone new. You have to be on the same page. So you have to over communicate, to the point where it’s second nature.”
That familiarity helps breed the aforementioned confidence Fryar showcased Thursday.
Even though the senior hasn’t been announced as a starter, he’s commanding the room like he is. In Frye’s words, “he’s playing the position to own the position.”
“Because I think I can do it,” Fryar said. “I think that’s the biggest thing. All the people out here are confident in me to do it. I feel like I carry that burden. And I feel like I’m gonna carry it well.”
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