Position battles: Right Tackle

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Last updated: 08/03/2012 2:07 AM

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Fall Position Battles to Watch: Right Tackle

By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Buckeyes officially open fall camp today for the first time under Urban Meyer with a 6 a.m. practice for returning players.

Ohio State’s new head coach says spring ball is where jobs are won and fall camp is about getting ready for the season, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be fierce competition throughout the month of August.

We decided to look at some of the most important position battles to watch over the next month, starting with a look at the right tackle position. This could be one of the most hotly contested spot on the entire roster after a strong spring from freshman Taylor Decker.

Shoes to Fill: J.B. Shugarts

J.B. Shugarts
Photo by Dan Harker
J.B. Shugarts

Whoever starts at right tackle this fall will have some interesting shoes to fill. Many OSU fans are thrilled to see the career of J.B. Shugarts come to a close after last season, but where would the Buckeyes have been without the big tackle out of Texas?

They probably would have had a lot fewer penalties on offense over the years, but Shugarts was a three-year starter for Ohio State on the right side of the line. Despite battling through a number of injuries early in his career, Shugarts started 35 games from 2009-11 and signed with the Cleveland Browns as a undrafted free agent this summer.  

The Favorite: Reid Fragel (6-8, 298, Sr.)

Reid Fragel
Photo by Jim Davidson
Reid Fragel

After starting the Gator Bowl at tight end in place of the injured Jake Stoneburner, Reid Fragel put on 20-25 pounds of muscle in the winter so he could slide inside to play tackle in Meyer’s new system.

It was Fragel who approached Meyer in December about making the switch for his senior season, and the Buckeyes needed all the help they could get at offensive tackle. At 6-8, 298 pounds, Fragel is the most massive player on the roster. He has less than 10 percent body fat and spent most of the spring working as the first-team right tackle.

He hasn’t started many games in his OSU career, but Fragel has been a big part of what the Buckeyes have been able to do in the running game over the past two years. He was the perfect compliment to Stoneburner because of his blocking abilities and now he will be blocking on a full-time basis at tackle.

The Challenger: Taylor Decker (6-7, 310, Fr.)

Taylor Decker
Photo by Jim Davidson
Taylor Decker

Fragel will likely open fall camp a the projected starter on the right side, but Meyer said he is in a dogfight with freshman Taylor Decker. This is an Ohio kid who was headed for Notre Dame before Meyer took the job and hired Tim Hinton and Ed Warinner away from the Fighting Irish.

He enrolled for spring camp as a 6-7, 310-pound monster out of Vandalia Butler and immediately captured the attention of his teammates, along with Warinner, his new offensive line coach.

Decker isn’t as experienced as Fragel, who played a major role in the offense as the No. 2 tight end last year, but he is more fluid as a tackle. Unlike Fragel, who has spent most of his time run-blocking in red zone situations, Decker is a natural pass protector.

The Darkhorse: Kyle Dodson (6-5, 315, Fr.)

One other guy to keep an eye on for the right side of Ohio State’s offensive line is incoming freshman Kyle Dodson.

Like Decker, Dodson was committed elsewhere when Meyer took over the program in November, but the new OSU staff immediately recognized a glaring need at offensive tackle.

That’s why Dodson could be in the mix this fall despite the fact he did not take part in spring practice back in April. Dodson is much more raw than Decker, and he is coming off a shoulder injury from his senior season at Cleveland Heights.

He is a big, strong kid who likes to move people around up front. While Dodson should get a chance to compete during camp, it seems like a long-shot he would be able beat out both Fragel and Decker for a starting spot.

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