Ohio State's potential lineup change has me all excited for several reasons
Of all the headlines I see each week, I forget about most of them by an hour later. There’s just so much to consume in this 24-hour news cycle that it feels impossible to retain much of anything.
One headline, though, caught my eye a few days ago, and I’ve been giddy about it since. There was shuffling on Ohio State’s offensive line: Dawand Jones, a 6-foot-8, 360-pound offensive tackle, was working with the first string last week.
Why does it matter? Well, Jones was an athletic marvel years ago, and he still is now. And it creates a fascinating situation on a unit that was already one of the nation’s best.
First, the backstory.
For 4 ½ years, I covered Ball State athletics and high school sports in Muncie, Indiana. The Ball State football program had a shot at Jones, who played high school ball at Ben Davis in Indianapolis. He attended Ball State’s Junior Day and got his first offer, according to his recruiting timeline on 247Sports. More interesting to me, though, was Ball State’s basketball team wanted him badly, too.
Jones was someone you had to see to believe, and I didn’t realize just how talented he was until I saw his basketball highlights. He wasn’t just a giant. He had skills. He had a handle. He had court vision. He had a jump shot. Even then, at 360 pounds, he was incredibly athletic.
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— Mike Williams (@MikeWritesSport) March 24, 2019
GET UP @dawand_jones!!
— Zach Hughes (@zachnhughes) February 23, 2019
This is a Left Tackle playing Basketball 🤔🤔
— Brad Ballislife (@BradBallisLife) September 29, 2019
Ball State was in on Jones before his stock on the gridiron soared. In fact, Ball State’s MAC counterpart, Kent State, was believed to be where Jones was headed to chase his dream of playing in the NBA. He told the Indianapolis Star that he nearly signed in the fall, but his high school coaches convinced him to wait until the end of the football season before making a decision. Soon after, he got his first Power 5 football offer, from Mississippi State, and they started to flood in. His final 5 wound up being Ohio State, Indiana, Florida, USC and Penn State.
By the time he finished high school, he wasn’t even a top-1,000 recruit. He was Ohio State’s last scholarship in 2019. He was the Buckeyes’ lowest-rated recruit that season, and he would’ve been in most seasons since Urban Meyer took over.
Selfishly, I wanted to see him play college basketball, because he was so unique. And I thought given his recruiting ranking, it would be hard for him to ever crack the lineup at Ohio State, which doesn’t often take non-blue chip recruits. I figured he would get lost in the shuffle; college athletics is often a numbers game, which is why so many players transfer.
Boy, was I wrong. And that’s why this is all so interesting.
Ohio State is loaded on the offensive line. Just an embarrassment of riches. The No. 1 tackle in the 2020 class, Paris Johnson, is playing guard this season. That’s because Preseason All-American Thayer Munford and Nicholas Petit-Frere, the No. 1 tackle in the 2018 class, are returning starters at tackle.
Jones has progressed so much that he is forcing Ohio State’s hand. The Buckeyes are mulling moving Munford, a 3-year starter at left tackle, to guard, all just to make room for Jones, who would slot in at right tackle.
That would mean Ohio State is essentially starting 4 tackles. It’s like the college football version of the modern NBA, which is somewhat position-less. Just get the best players on the field and worry about the positions later. Jones obviously fits that bill; why else would Ohio State ponder moving one of the best tackles in the country to guard?
This is going to be so much fun to watch. Imagine all of that athletic ability that Jones displayed in high school, and honing it for 2 years at one of the elite programs in the country. He is absolutely going to be on the NFL radar in the next few years.
I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, because who knows if this lineup will stick. But this could be the start of one of those cool sports stories where an overlooked player works hard and gets the right opportunity and becomes great. Jones is that type of athlete.
There were 85 tackles ranked ahead of Jones in the 2019 recruiting class, and that’s going to be funny to look back on in a few years.
It isn’t common that a position switch on the offensive line during fall camp would get me overly excited. But Dawand Jones isn’t common. I think the rest of the college football world will find that out soon enough.