Without Harry Miller, Buckeyes spring center job remains open

Spencer Holbrook6 months
Matthew Jones by Birm-Lettermen Row
Matthew Jones made the most of his opportunity as a backup last season. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

COLUMBUS — Ohio State offensive lineman Harry Miller was set to take over.

This spring should have provided a smooth transition for the Buckeyes offensive line. Two-year starter Josh Myers is off to the NFL, preparing to be the leader of a pro unit. And Harry Miller was expected to step in without issue and become the Buckeyes apex.

But it didn’t quite work out that way.

Miller is sidelined for the spring with what Lettermen Row sources described as a labrum issue. With Miller on the shelf, the Buckeyes have an ongoing competition to replace him for the spring — and maybe into the preseason.

“Repping right now at center is Matt Jones, Luke Wypler and Jakob James,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said Monday. “But when Harry gets back, he could easily move into center. We’ve had some other guys taking snaps along the way that can do it as well. We’ll look for the best five guys and make it work from there.

So far, I have to give Matt credit. He has done a nice job in there. He has done a really good job, and he hasn’t done a whole bunch of that leading into the season. Luke’s had a pretty good offseason. He’s gotten stronger. That’s been great because he’s another guy who really needs a spring. And then I have to give Jakob credit. Jakob did a really great job this offseason growing up and getting stronger. Still a long way to go for a lot of these guys, but steps in the right direction, and that’s what spring ball is all about.”

As Miller remains in a non-contact jersey through the spring, the Buckeyes know they have options. Jones stepped in and played two games in place of Miller late in the Buckeyes national championship run. Jones started the Sugar Bowl win over Clemson at left guard after Miller tested positive for COVID-19. And he kept that spot on the offensive line when Miller returned for the title game.

Harry Miller-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Ohio State offensive lineman Harry Miller won’t have a full spring. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Jones showed impressive flashes in those two appearances. If he continues to play well at center through the spring, Miller could face some competition for that starting spot heading into fall camp. Or they could both find time, one at center and one at guard.

“I think one of the things for us on the offensive line is having flexibility,” Day said. “Somebody like Matt Jones being able to play center or guard. When Harry gets healthy, being able to play center or guard. Someone like Paris being able to play tackle or guard. The more flexibility you have, the more options you’re going to have. The idea is to find our five best offensive linemen. That’s it. If we can do that and get those guys on the field, that’s the ideal situation for us.

“Now how does that fit in terms of position specificity? That’s what it comes down to over the spring, but the more guys can do, the more value they have.”

Jones showed he can play guard at a high level in January against two of the best teams in the country. So far this spring, he’s proving his versatility at center in place of Miller. As Wypler and James continue to progress, the Buckeyes could have four options at center and a bevy of offensive line combinations to toy with in training camp.

Once Miller comes back, the competition to replace Josh Myers can truly begin. It may not be as smooth of a transition from one center to the next as the Buckeyes would have liked. But it could show just what Ohio State has in its offensive line room.

“We’re looking for the best five guys, that’s for sure,” Day said. “Whatever that looks like, we’ll try to make that work. We’ve done that in the past.”

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