COLUMBUS â€” Nicholas Petit-Frere thought he was comfortable during his first two seasons at Ohio State.
But he had no idea how much more his comfort level could grow.
After learning how to be a member of the football program during his freshman year, Petit-Frere began to settle in as a second-year player. The former No. 1 tackle in his recruiting class started a game at tackle as a sophomore and truly began to feel at home. Last season during his first full year as a starter opposite of Thayer Munford, Petit-Fere continued to grow.
Entering Year Four and his second season as a starter, Petit-Frere is still learning to be more comfortable with where he is.
“Coming in as a freshman, this is probably one of the most competitive places I’ve ever seen or been a part of,” he said. “The competitive nature and the strive for excellence that every single player and coach, even our staff has, at trying to be the best at whatever they can do — that was the first thing that stuck out to me. Through that growth came the trials and tribulations of me trying to gain my weight and learn the offense, trying to feel comfortable with the team. It took time. It took time for me to find my groove, find my rhythm, find how comfortable I was. I felt like I got there a little during my sophomore year, and then you never know what you don’t know. When my junior year came up, then I got into a whole new level of feeling comfortable. I thought my sophomore year that this would be the most comfortable I would ever be. I feel great.
“But one more year comes around and I feel more tight with the team. I feel more tight with what I’m doing in everything of that nature.”
Petit-Frere has been on a journey during his time at Ohio State. Yes, he came in as a five-star prospect. But in order to find time on the field, he had to gain nearly 50 pounds to be at a proper playing weight. His first start then went well, and the hype that he brought on the recruiting trail returned.
As a starter last season, Petit-Frere and Munford made up one of the best tackle tandems in the country. And they’re both back for another season of dominance.
â€œThey were two of the best tackles in the country last year,â€ Ohio State offensive line coach Greg Studrawa said. â€œThey proved it. Theyâ€™re growing. They can help those guys inside. And to have two guys on the edge like those two guys that can protect those young quarterbacks, that was really what I thought was going to be the best for us.â€
Even as Petit-Frere handled any defensive end lined up against him last season, he had plenty to improve on. The focus this offseason has come in the run-blocking game. Petit-Frere proved to be a more than capable pass-blocker a season ago. He could have left Ohio State to become an NFL draft pick.
But he wasn’t ready for that. He still has more growing to do.
“The thing that we’re focusing on with Nick right now is his pad level,” Studrawa said. “He’s a tall guy, and for him to bend sometimes, it’s a strain. So we’ve been working on his pad level and making him a more productive run-blocker by getting him to bend. So we’ve worked a bunch of bending things, we’ve got his squat up, getting his legs more powerful so he can become a more dominant run-blocker. His pass-blocking excelled. That was last year’s focus, going into last season, making him an elite pass-protector. He’s well on his way. His feet are done. He’s doing those things there. What we’ve got to do is make him an elite run-blocker. …
“He’s got to become elite, and that’s what we’re focusing on right now.”
As he enters his second full season as a starter, Petit-Frere continues to redefine what it means to be comfortable at Ohio State. He settled in as a sophomore. After two years, he became a starter and felt at home as a junior.
He certainly has a good three-year foundation to build upon. But he still has started fewer than 10 games in his career. The goal moving forward now: Just get better and continue to grow.
“The main goal is to improve on what I did from the season before,” Petit-Frere said. “I’m not going to just forget about what I’ve done. What I’ve done is try to improve on the things that I’ve done. Not just stay the same, but get better. That’s the main goal. But my whole mentality is really about just do what I’ve been doing. Work hard, train hard, eat right, practice hard, play with a lot of effort, do all the things that got me to that point to begin with.
“Nothing should change because I played a year or I’ve been here before. The same mentality, the same drive, the same work ethic, it has to stay the same. But I have to improve while doing that.”