Despite not arriving in Columbus until early May, San Diego State transfer Josh Simmons is making a bid to earn a starting position at offensive tackle for an Ohio State offensive line in need of replacing three starters.
A junior with still three years of eligibility remaining, Simmons started 13 games at right tackle last season before transferring to Ohio State. At 6-foot-5-inches and 310 lbs., Simmons looks the part of a future anchor for the Buckeye offensive line, and he’s acclimating nicely despite his short time in the program.
“He’s a more mature guy,” offensive line coach Justin Frye said of Simmons on Tuesday. “That’s the thing when you get these guys from the transfer portal. They’ve known college football. He’s been in a locker room, he’s played in a college football game, so I think the speed of the game for him is a little slower than an actual rookie.”
Simmons opened camp getting repetitions in his familiar role at right tackle but has been seen getting first-team looks at left tackle in recent days. On Monday, head coach Ryan Day noted the decision to flip Simmons to left tackle and move Josh Fryar to right tackle was a decision that needed to be made early in camp and one that could only be made because both were comfortable with making the move and capable of making it work.
With this week of practice representing a critical stretch for Ohio State leading up to its second scrimmage on Saturday, Simmons could solidify himself as the guy protecting the blindside of whichever quarterback ultimately wins the starting role. For now, however, Simmons is trying not to get ahead of himself and remain focused on simply improving each day.
“There are a lot of expectations, but I kind of take it all with a grain of salt. Maybe I’m kind of making some progress right now, but I’m still trying to work to get better at it,” Simmons said.
Frye noted he’s seen a motivated player in Simmons and one who is doing the necessary things to carve out a role for Ohio State this season.
“He’s bought into the room, he’s bought into the culture, he’s around the guys,” Frye said. “He works the way you’re supposed to. He’s still learning to work some of the ways he’s supposed to, but he’s around a good room of guys who know how to do that, and he’s bought into that. That’s been the easiest transition for him.”
Should Simmons land the starting position at left tackle, his physical skillset won’t be in question. Asked what has stood out about Simmons since his arrival on campus, Fryar didn’t waste any time in issuing a response.
“Athleticism. Freaky athleticism,” Fryar said. “Watching film of him going up on a linebacker and stuff, it’s kind of scary how he moves.”
Fryar said that athleticism became very apparent to him as soon as he saw Simmons in a live practice for the first time. “I think it was the first day of camp when I saw him go up on a linebacker and I was like, ‘God, that guy can move,’” he recalled.
Although he appears well on his way to playing a critical role in the offense this season, Simmons didn’t downplay the difficulty of making the transition from right to left tackle, calling the move a big one. He added that such a move is made even more difficult when trying to do it while lining up against a group of immensely talented defensive linemen every day in practice.
“You’re going against the best defensive linemen in college football (in practice), so you have to really lock in,” he said.
Frye shared similar thoughts on the level of competition Simmons and the rest of the offensive line see every day in practice, and what that means for his guys’ development.
“What’s the old adage or cliche, iron sharpens iron? You’re going against some of the best players in the country on a Tuesday and Wednesday,” Frye said. “You look back to Zach Harrison last year when he was at the (NFL) combine and they asked him why his game elevated his senior year. He said, ‘Because I went against the two best tackles in the country every day in practice.’ Well, we get that opportunity as tackles now to make sure that we’re getting great edge looks from all those guys.”
Indeed, it’s been a whirlwind for Simmons since he stepped off the plane in May. From changing positions to the step up in competition, as well as everything that factors into settling into a new program, Simmons has handled it in stride and is now in line to play a prominent role for a team ranked third in the country. Simmons said he recognizes how much has changed in his life, as well as the opportunity in front of him, but isn’t taking anything for granted.
“It has (changed), but I try not to really look at it that way. I just try to keep working because I know nothing’s set in stone at all,” he said.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.