“It’s God’s plan and the brotherhood. I have unfinished business to take care of.”
Although the 6-foot-3, 315-pound Jones started 12 of 13 games this season, he had some ups and downs while dealing with lower body injuries.
Jones was the No. 1 center prospect in the country and No. 2 prospect in the state of New York when he signed with Ohio State in 2018 before having to wait multiple seasons to get his opportunity to be a full-time starter.
The Brooklyn Erasmus Hall graduate has had flashes of dominance going back to 2020 when he was the team’s sixth lineman, but he likely could increase his value to NFL teams with a full, healthy college season.
With fellow offensive lineman Luke Wypler having announced Tuesday night he is going pro early, Jones could end up being the Buckeyes’ center this fall, another bonus for his draft stock.
Jones has practiced at center over the past two seasons, but all of his 2022 playing time was at guard.
Jakob James, a sophomore from Cincinnati, was the backup center last season and figures to be in the mix for a starting spot this fall.
“Even though this past season has had some obstacles, I want to thank God for all the great people He’s surrounded me with and the support and sacrifices my family has made to be where I’m at today,” Jones wrote. “The message I tell myself every day is, ‘God gives his toughest battles to his strongest soldiers.’”
Entering his second season as offensive line coach, Justin Frye has a dozen scholarship players set to return this spring with four true freshmen joining the mix this week as early enrollees, so he does not lack options from which to choose his new starting five.
Ohio State has also been active in courting linemen in the transfer portal, but so far none have chosen the Buckeyes.
Jones’ decision to take advantage of his extra year of eligibility from playing through the COVID-19 pandemic qualifies as somewhat of a surprise, as does Wypler’s decision to go pro now.
The 6-3, 300-pound Wypler has been Ohio State’s starting center the past two seasons, but linemen going pro after three years is not as common as some positions.
However, Wypler suggested in December he might make the jump if he performed well against Georgia in the Peach Bowl, and by all appearances he did more than hold his own.
All-American left tackle Paris Johnson Jr. also is leaving after three seasons, though he was a five-star recruit coming out of Cincinnati Princeton and has always been viewed as a potential first-round pick on the three-year plan many with his recruiting profile follow.
Right tackle Dawand Jones, who was a second-team All-Big Ten pick last season, confirmed Wednesday afternoon he is leaving after four years rather than use his extra COVID year of eligibility.
That means Ohio State officially is losing both starting tackles, and the only returning starter aside from Matt Jones is Donovan Jackson.
A five-star recruit from Texas two years ago, Jackson made the All-Big Ten First Team at left guard last fall, but he could move to tackle if that is how the best five linemen shake out in the preseason.
Enokk Vimahi, a senior from Hawaii, ended the season as the team’s top reserve guard while rising junior Josh Fryer was the team’s third tackle.
Vimahi started the Michigan game for an injured Matt Jones, and Fryar started against Indiana when Dawand Jones couldn’t go, so that pair would seem to be the first two in line to join the starting lineup.
Tegra Tshabola may be next after them. He made the two-deep as a true freshman from Lakota West last fall and appears best-suited for guard, but he also figures to get a look on the outside.
Wypler’s early exit could also accelerate the need to develop Joshua Padilla, a Wayne High School grad who enrolled at Ohio State this week and has been viewed as a future center for the Buckeyes despite playing tackle for the Warriors.