COLUMBUS — For Tegra Tshabola, this spring at Ohio State is about violence.
More specifically, the Lakota West graduate is trying to figure out where to find it on the football field as he makes the transition from right guard to right tackle.
“At guard the violence is right here,” he said as he raised his hand in front of him.
“But at tackle it’s back there,” he said looking back over his shoulder. “You gotta go find it. You got to go find where you’re going to start your pass (set), where you’re going to start everything you’re gonna do, so it’s a lot different.”
Th soft-spoken 6-foot-7, 327-pound redshirt freshman gave thoughtful answers when he met with reporters in late March, admitting the move has been harder than he expected but sounded determined to see it through.
“I feel like I’ve made a better jump and I’m starting to get used to the way this game as it’s played but I’ve got a long way to go and a long time to go, too,” he said.
Of course, the players he is going against don’t make it easy. That includes talented juniors J.T. Tuimoloau and Jack Sawyer along with up-and-coming redshirt freshman Kenyatta Jackson, who has been one of the talks of spring as he makes a push for a spot in the two-deep.
“I mean this is the highest level you can get, so being in space, being calm in space, being able to use your hands in space, body position” are things on which he is trying to improve.
Aside from battling with teammates on the other side of the ball, he is also competing for the open right tackle position with Zen Michalski, third-year sophomore from Floyds Knob, Ind.
They split reps with the first team during drills open to the media March 25, though Tshabola got the first crack with the first team in the latter part of the practice when the offense and defense scrimmaged.
He was back there Saturday as Michalski sat out with an injury head coach Ryan Day said he hopes is resolved before the end of spring, but Tshabola might be most worried about his own development anyway regardless of which unit he’s working with.
“Keep repping. Keep repping every single day,” Tshabola said. “During practice, after practice. Try to stay locked in to what you’re doing.”
He has a supporter in offensive line coach Justin Frye, who has sought to remind him he has already displayed the talent to play at this level if he can only figure out how to unlock it.
“Tegra was an elite-level player in high school,” Frye said. “He was an All-American, all-star games, he does all this stuff. Then he shows up here and he’s Tegra the freshman.
“Now, how do you get back to playing to your level? You work through those base fundamentals. Ryan talked about it today. We have got to have great effort and technique. That’s what we’re focusing on today. So if you’re a high level player, and you have great effort, great technique, then you’ll produce at a high level.”
While Tshabola pushes ahead, he has had some frustrating moments that prompted Frye to remind him he only enrolled last summer.
“He came up to me one time and I was hard on myself. I was down and all of that and he was like, ‘How long have you been here?’” Tshabola said. “And I told him a year, and he said, ‘Wrong. You haven’t even been here a full year yet, and look at the big jump you’ve made since you got here.’”
That includes learning to play with controlled aggression.
“Like in high school I just wanted to grab somebody and kill somebody and take them out, but here there are a lot of good football players and you have to stay calm and keep it directed,” Tshabola said. “You go out there and try to bulldoze somebody with your head down, they’re just going to move out of the way, so I immediately knew there was something I had to change so I’ve been working on it since I got here.”
His earnestness has impressed Frye.
“He’s so passionate about being his best version of himself,” Frye said. “He’s so passionate about being a great football player, and we’re just trying to stack those days on top of each other.”