Most Important Buckeyes: No. 17
By Patrick Maks
Photo by Jim Davidson
COLUMBUS — Reid Fragel is trading in his No. 88 jersey in for something a bit more appropriate.
He arrived in Columbus as a monstrous 6-8 tight end in 2009, but Fragel is taking his talents to the trenches as the Buckeyes’ projected starter at right tackle this season.
That alone is enough to make the senior from Grosse Pointe, Mich. No. 17 on our countdown of Ohio State’s 20 Most Important Players for the 2012 season.
What Makes Him Important?
Fragel’s situation is obviously unique, as it’s the senior’s first go-around at the offensive tackle position after three years as a tight end.
Over the last three seasons, Fragel caught 14 passes for 185 yards and one touchdown, a number that’s not all that impressive since he played in all 39 games during that span.
It’s understandable, though, considering he and Jake Stoneburner, the team’s starting tight end the last two seasons, netted a grand total of 19 receptions in 2011.
Between the two, Fragel was already much more of a blocker, but it’s evidence, if only circumstantial, of the fact OSU’s tight ends aren’t—and haven’t been—targeted as much.
That, coupled with the loss of senior tackles Mike Adams and J.B. Shugarts, is likely enough to explain why it seemed logical to move Fragel to an offensive line that Ohio State coach Urban Meyer hasn’t been shy about assessing.
When Meyer took his job in Columbus last November, he didn’t waste time pulling punches regarding the big uglies. He called their bodies “sloppy” and said their attitudes, at best, revealed a lack of commitment.
Even though Meyer called the offensive line the most improved group on his team at the end of spring ball, Fragel’s presence in the trenches will be critical in determining whether the offensive line can thrive under their new coach’s system.
What can be expected of him?
It might be lost on some but, according to Ohio State’s official website, Fragel is one of the physically imposing players on the entire team.
At 6-foot-8, Fragel is the tallest player on the Buckeyes’ roster. And there’s meat to those bones, too.
Fragel has jumped from 280-pounds to about 298-pounds since January in preparation for his new role at tackle.
The point? Fragel can definitely be expected to physically fit the part.
How will he perform, though? That’s probably a fair question, though the transition from his role as primarily a blocking-tight end to a tackle has been relatively smooth. Fragel is used to blocking on the outside, not to mention the kid is an athlete.
It seems like—at most—moving to tackle would just require Fragel to new blocking schemes in coordination with the rest of the offensive line. The fundamentals, however, remain largely the same.
Nor is Fragel alone in learning new plays with Meyer implementing an entirely new offense. Mentally adjusting to the offensive line won’t slow him down—everyone on that side of the ball has likely been graced with some sort of learning curve.
What Would the Buckeyes Do Without Him?
It’s hard to say since Fragel has never played a down of tackle in a game situation.
In order to analyze what the Buckeyes would do without him, it’s helpful to understand the kind of impact he had on the team in previous years in order to put his role on the team into context.
It’s a blessing and a curse.
In one way, the bar has been set relatively low for Fragel after Shugarts had a somewhat disappointing senior season at right tackle in 2011.
That also makes it reasonable to believe that OSU would be able to the position with a younger, equally capable freshman in Taylor Decker if Fragel wasn’t getting it done.
What Fragel brings to the table, though, is senior leadership—something that’s often invaluable when it comes to the intangible dynamics of a team.
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