COLUMBUS – Before Paris Johnson Jr. ever played a football game at Ohio State he was being projected as a possible starter at left tackle as a freshman and a future first-round NFL draft choice at that position.
Johnson had to wait until his sophomore season last fall to get into the starting lineup. And when he did it was at right guard, not left tackle, when OSU’s coaches decided they needed to play their five best offensive linemen regardless of what position they had played before last season.
The 6-6, 310-pound Johnson from Cincinnati Princeton High School will return to left tackle this season. He says he has no regrets and wasn’t bitter about last season’s move.
“I felt like the moment I moved to guard I would have an absolutely terrible season if I put my head down and thought, ‘Oh, I should be at tackle right now,’ ” Johnson said on Monday.
“Once I got put at guard I watched film like a guard. I didn’t watch what the tackles were doing, I watched what the guards were doing. I was like, when my time comes I’m going to go back and learn all the tackle things.
“They could have put me at free safety and I would have started backpedaling, trying to cover somebody. I just wanted to be on the field for the Buckeyes. They said they wanted the best five up there (on the offensive line). I was honored to be seen in that light to be able to play,” he said.
Johnson was second-team All-Big Ten in his first year as a starter.
Johnson, center Luke Wypler and right tackle Dawand Jones are returning starters on OSU’s offensive line this season. Sophomore Donovan Jackson and fifth-year senior Matthew Jones are expected to be the starting guards.
Jackson has been impressed with Johnson’s ability and his approach to returning to his familiar position.
“I believe Paris has take more of a leadership role, taking the young guy under his wing, pulling players along with him,” he said. “In terms of his play, it’s going to speak for itself. It’s kind of amazing how scary athletic he is in some instances where most people couldn’t do what he does.
“His work ethic is amazing. In the summer we’ll finish a lift. Some guys will go back (home) and go to sleep but Paris goes back out on the field and gets more reps (repetitions),” he said.
New Ohio State offensive line coach Justin Frye said Johnson “absolutely” will face an adjustment in making a position switch even though he is going back to a position he has played most of his football life
That adjustment will be accelerated by the pass rushers he will face in practice, Frye said.
“When you’ve got guys like Zach Harrison, J.T. (Tuimoloau) and Jack (Sawyer) you’ve got dudes across from you, rushing you every day. You’d better get acclimated. He wants to be great. Everything he does, he wants to be great.”