The three-star prospect and Ohio State commit has been used at guard by Cuyahoga Falls (Ohio) Walsh Jesuit throughout his high school career, but Ohio State recruited him with a vision of sliding him to center at the next level. Although his high school coach Scott Beigie said Wohlabaugh more than capable at that spot, he was deemed more valuable at the high school level as a guard.
That changed when the Warriors’ center went down with an injury following the second game of the season. In the blink of an eye, Wohlabaugh began his career as a center. It turns out he has a pretty good resource to turn to in that regard. His father Dave played nine seasons as an NFL center and started Super Bowl XXXI for the New England Patriots.
“When they first told me I was going to have to play center, I came home and asked my dad if we could go work on some shotgun snaps just to make sure everything is in tune,” Wohlabaugh said. “I wanted to see if he had any pointers for me like foot placement or anything like that and he guided me through it a little bit.”
The Warriors lost that Sept. 11 contest to Columbus Bishop Watterson 21-0, but Wohlabaugh was pretty pleased with his debut at center.
“I think I have a good body type for center, and I have a good football mind. I can call out certain blitzes and read the defense pretty well,” he said. “This was the first game ever that I’ve played center. Worrying about having to snap the ball is something new, but I have to keep practicing that until it’s a muscle memory that I don’t have to think about. Other than that, the transition has been going really well so far.”
Beigie, who coached Walsh Jesuit’s offensive line before taking over in 2015 for 35-year head coach Gerry Rardin, has had a front-row seat for Wohlabaugh’s development as a prospect. Describing Wohlabaugh as a “mauler,” he said that the senior has always been very good in run blocking. Over time, and especially over the past year, his pass blocking has caught up.
He’s been aided in his development by his outstanding size and his increased strength, but there’s been another factor at play in his improvement as an offensive lineman.
“He has some phenomenal feet in terms of his foot speed, which is pivotal for an offensive lineman. I think a lot of that actually comes from his hockey background,” Beigie said. “For a lot of years Jack played hockey, I think all the way up through his sophomore year at Walsh. Genetics are obviously in involved as well with his father being the athlete he is and his mother, too, but he really fine-tuned his foot speed through hockey.”
While the image of a lineman-sized 16-year-old charging down the ice might sound far-fetched, Wohlabaugh was quick to note that he’s actually played hockey longer than he’s played football. Although he gave it up following his sophomore year of high school, he said he still sees the benefits of his time on the ice.
“Playing hockey taught me how to get good knee bend and ankle flexibility and just how to get my feet moving in the right position, and all of that has transferred over into football for me,” he said.
He’s got the natural size (6-4, 280 pounds) and has worked to develop his physical attributes, but it would be foolish to dismiss his bloodlines as another reason for his success. When he attended an Ohio State camp this summer, Wohlabaugh told reporters that he loved being able to work on techniques with his father.
Beigie agreed, noting that the elder Wohlabaugh has done a good job of developing his son’s work ethic and preventing any entitlement or expectation from entering the equation.
“He’s got a great, close relationship with his father,” Beigie said. “They’re always talking about football and working on stuff together. He has an understanding of the work ethic and concentration he needs each and every day at practice, and Jack is one of the best practice guys I’ve seen in my short career. He understands that each practice he has to be focused and working his tail off in order to have the success he’s had and wants to have in the future.
“Having a dad who played in the NFL is pretty evident in terms not only his football knowledge – and he gets the game pretty well – but also his passion and drive and his understanding of what it takes to be successful on the football field. I think some people may believe they know what they need to get the job done, but he has the passed-down knowledge from his father of what exactly it takes to be successful at each level.”
Thus far, it appears Wohlabaugh knows what it takes to get the job done at center. In only one week of practice, he already impressed Beigie with how he was able to handle the position change. Part of that success, though, came from preparation.
“He naturally took to it, but he had been working on it for some time with snapping,” Beigie said. “Frankly, when he first started here he was working on being a center and snapping the ball, so it’s always been a part of his routine to practice that. I think he’ll do an outstanding job with the transition.”