Nicholas Petit-Frere’s journey to starting at right tackle involved a lot of spaghetti and a visit from the Homeowners Association.
With the departure of current Carolina Panthers right tackle Branden Bowen, redshirt sophomore Petit-Frere worked to put on weight to prepare himself to fill the void on the right side of the offensive line. The Florida native made his first career start at right tackle Saturday against Nebraska.
“I’ve been working at that ever since last year, from January all the way through, trying to find a way for me to compete and get that starting spot,” Petit-Frere said Wednesday in a Zoom call. “I’m very blessed and thankful for me to get that opportunity this previous weekend, for me to get a start and be a starter along with all the rest of the guys that are playing right now.”
Petit-Frere saw game action last season, playing in all 14 games for the 2019 Buckeyes.
Speaking to the potential he showed throughout last season, redshirt junior center Josh Myers said Petit-Frere handled himself well in the start.
“He could’ve [stepped in] at any point of the last quarter of the season last year,” Myers said Tuesday. “Pretty much from that point I was confident in Nick’s ability and that he would win that starting spot, and man did he play well — he played really well.”
Petit-Frere also graded out as a champion — a distinction for excellent play given out by the coaching staff — for his play against Nebraska.
“I’m just glad that I was able to do my job, which meant that I was graded out as a champion,” Petit-Frere said.
The high praise from an experienced Myers and championship grade did not mean Petit-Frere was completely satisfied with his performance.
Despite describing his season opener as an “overall good start,” Petit-Frere said there is much for him to work on going forward.
“I want to get more comfortable around the guys in the offense and things like that and just get tighter as a unit, get tighter as a team,” Petit-Frere said. “Overall, we always have stuff for us to improve on. We’re not at the level we want to be at yet, but we’re going to continue to work hard in practice and throughout these weeks for us to get better.”
In order to get to his debut, Petit-Frere had to navigate an unusual offseason. The coaching staff had tasked Petit-Frere with putting on 10 pounds over the break to help the third-year player perform better on the field.
During the height of quarantine — which Petit-Frere described as an opportunity for him to focus on gaining weight and working out, it was Petit-Frere’s mother who was unexpectedly tasked with feeding her son during the spring months.
Petit-Frere said his journey to get around 315 pounds involved a lot of one particular food: spaghetti — which he said would sometimes be his breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Offensive line coach Greg Studrawa, who said Petit-Frere is right where the coaches thought he would be, said Petit-Frere’s mother was responsible for feeding him and getting him to the appropriate body weight.
“She called me and asked me, ‘Coach, you’re going to have to send some groceries, because I can’t make enough pasta,’” Studrawa said Oct. 20. “She was so fired up when [quarantine] was over to get him back here because she couldn’t afford it anymore.”
Along with the added grocery cost to feed her son, Loris Petit-Frere also had to deal with damage to her house following her son doing pullups on the gutter — resulting in a visit from the homeowner association.
“I thought my roof could support me and I was kinda mistaken by that,” Petit-Frere said.
Following an offseason of unorthodox workouts and eating extra spaghetti, Petit-Frere said he feels good at his current playing weight.
In fact, the offensive tackle said it has made him better out on the field.
“I feel better about myself, I feel more confident about myself, I feel stronger and more physical with everything I do,” Petit-Frere said.
It may have taken into his third season but the No. 1 rated offensive tackle in the 2018 recruiting class has carved out a starting role for himself.
Petit-Frere said the previous two years involved moments in which he felt he was not in the right spot, but looking back at his journey now, he said it was just part of his development.
“I’m never, ever, going to feel like I’m at where I am supposed to be at — I always feel like I can improve,” Petit-Frere said. “But I do feel very confident at the moment about where I am and how I’ve been doing.”