Ryan Donnelly/Land of 10
Matthew Jones enrolled early and is trying to compete for a starting spot at center for Ohio State.

Ohio State football: Can Matthew Jones be factor at center right away?

Austin Ward

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There’s a coaching adage that comes immediately to mind when projecting early playing time for recruits: The closer they are to the football at the snap, the harder it is to get on the field right away. And for Matthew Jones, it doesn’t get any closer than standing over the football and hiking it. So, even as highly regarded as Ohio State’s latest pickup from Brooklyn (N.Y) Erasmus Hall was both by the coaching staff and the national rankings services, odds are it will require some patience before Jones contributes.

There are a few things that might work in his favor, of course. First, and perhaps most important, is that Jones is already on campus going through winter conditioning and preparing for spring practice. Since he arrived with the kind of size and strength at 6-foot-4, 315 pounds that isn’t exactly typical for a freshman, that also might be a reason to boost his chances. Factor in that Ohio State’s battle to replace Billy Price appears somewhat wide open, and that means nobody can reasonably be excluded as a potential factor — especially after Michael Jordan proved a couple seasons ago that first-year freshmen can earn a spot on Urban Meyer’s offensive line.

Brady Taylor-Ohio State-Buckeyes-football-Big Ten-center-depth chart
Brady Taylor has been waiting his turn for a shot at the center job. (Land of 10/file photo)

Now for the splashes of cold water. Jordan walked into a much different situation in terms of depth on that unit even just two years ago, and playing guard doesn’t come with the same level of responsibility as center. Even with Price now gone and no returning options with meaningful experience at the position, Ohio State has veterans who have had years to learn the system and develop both in meetings and practices with Greg Studrawa and in the weight room with Mickey Marotti. Guys such as Brady Taylor and Matthew Burrell will have a deserved edge over a newcomer when camp rolls around, and it shouldn’t be forgotten that they’re pretty talented in themselves — even if they weren’t rated as the nation’s top prospect at center. There also is a 5-star from the Class of 2017 in Wyatt Davis who could get a look as Ohio State evaluates its options.

Jones will get his chance to compete in the spring and again in training camp in August, but for now, the expectation remains that a veteran will put his hands on the football first for Ohio State this season.

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