Fragel Embraces Move to Tackle
By Brandon Castel
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — When Reid Fragel went to bed Monday night, he was still a tight end trying to piece together his final thoughts from Ohio State’s 24-17 loss to Florida in the Gator Bowl.
Photo by Jim Davidson
When he awoke Tuesday morning for the team’s 7 a.m. meeting with new head coach Urban Meyer and his staff, Fragel felt like something else entirely.
An offensive tackle.
With a whole new system coming in, one that is known for its explosiveness on offense, one might have assumed Fragel would be gearing up for a breakout season at tight end. He shared time with redshirt junior Jake Stoneburner this season, but there should be plenty of opportunities to go around next season, especially if quarterback Braxton Miller can make significant progress in the off-season.
Instead of catching passes from Miller next year, however, Fragel will be working on protecting his young quarterback.
“I talked to Urban and he's all for it, so if he's on board, I am, too,” Fragel said of his decision to move from tight end to offensive tackle for his senior season.
“It’s just something in the back of my mind. Obviously with the change, it will be different out there next year. I'm looking forward to it, I'm not upset about it.”
In fact, Fragel said the switch was actually his idea, something that had been talked about sporadically throughout the season, but really came to the forefront of his mind as the 2011 season began to wind to a close.
“I feel like our team needs some help at tackle,” said Fragel, a third-year junior out of Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich.
“We don’t have much depth and looking at our tight ends, we have Jeff (Heuerman), Nick Vannett and with Stoney coming back, I think we’ll be strong at tight end. I feel like my blocking can help us at tackle.”
Fragel is already a sturdy 6-8, but former tight ends coach John Peterson thought he could easily add enough weight to his frame if the Buckeyes ever decided to move him inside to tackle.
More of a blocker than a pass-catcher anyway—though he does have nice size for the red zone—Fragel caught only five passes for 64 yards during the 2011 season. He has a total of 14 catches and one touchdown in his three year career at Ohio State, and OSU Graduate Assistant Kirk Barton sees it as a smart move.
“His future, if you look at the NFL, the tight ends are 4.5 guys (in the 40-yard dash),” said Barton, a former starter on the offensive line who will be retained for another year as a grad assistant under Meyer.
“Reid is a super athlete for a tackle, but he’s an average athlete for an NFL tight end. If you’re looking at long term, Eric Winston did it and he’s almost a Pro Bowler. He made $40 million over his contract.”
Winston was one of the most highly-touted tight ends in the country coming out of Robert E. Lee High School in Midland, Tex. He signed with Miami (Fla.) in 2002 and played in 13 games as a blocking tight end for the Hurricanes during his freshman season.
He moved to offensive tackle before his sophomore year and emerged as one of the ‘Canes best offensive linemen. Today he plays for the Houston Texans.
New England Patriots rookie Nate Solder had a similar story at the University of Colorado.
“I looked at him a little bit. I guess you could say I idolize him a little bit,” Fragel said of Solder, who was the second offensive tackle chosen (No. 17 overall) in the 2011 NFL Draft.
“I kind of look at him and cant help but think I could do something like that.”
Solder and Winston both made the switch early in the collegiate careers, much like Cleveland Browns Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas did at Wisconsin. Fragel will only have one off-season to make the transition, and he will have to be ready to play the position full-time by next August if he’s going to contribute on the offensive line in 2012.
“If it comes to that, I think he’d be good at it,” said Barton, a former Buckeye captain and four-year starter at right tackle.
“He’s really a tough kid. That’s the thing. He’s real tough and he’s a great athlete for how big he is. People don’t realize he’s about 285 and 6-7.”
Fragel said he wants to put on weight and get himself up to 295 or 300 pounds to play tackle, which is something he was not sold on during his recruitment. Both Michigan and Michigan State talked to him about being a mobile offensive lineman, but Fragel wanted to keep his options open.
He is a blocking tight end at heart, but didn’t want to give up on tight end all together. As a senior at Grosse Pointe South, Fragel broke his thumb and had to wear a heavy cast on his hand. That turned him into a glorified tackle, which in some ways, has been Fragel’s position at Ohio State.
The transition inside doesn’t come as a surprise—although later in his career than some expected—and it should not be a tough one for Fragel, assuming he buys in the way he seems to be.
“It’s something if I was him, I would do, but it’s up to him,” Barton added.
“He’s got to buy into it and the new coaching staff. If he really buys into, which I think he will, he can be really good.”
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