Breaking Down Urban’s Depth Chart: Offensive Tackle
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — In this new era of Ohio State football, two-deeps mean something now.
In fact, they mean a whole lot; at least to Urban Meyer.
Ohio State’s first-year head coach released his first-ever depth chart this past week following the Buckeyes’ 15 spring practices back in April. There were not many surprises in the OSU two-deep, but there was plenty to talk about.
Their first game is on Sept. 1 in Ohio Stadium. How much different will the depth chart look three months from now? We’re going to break down Urban’s first depth chart for a closer look at how things might develop over the summer and during the 29 practices in the fall.
Let’s continue with the OFFENSIVE TACKLES…
Pre-spring pecking order: Andrew Norwell and Reid Fragel starting with Jack Mewhort, Marcus Hall and Taylor Decker in the mix.
Photo by Jim Davidson
By the time spring practice began, the new coaching staff had decided Norwell was probably a better fit at guard in the new offensive system at Ohio State, but most people had expected him to be the team’s opening day left tackle.
Norwell came to OSU as a tackle, has tackle size and started the first five games at left tackle last season, but Meyer and offensive line coach Ed Warinner decided he fit better at guard. They slide Jack Mewhort out to left tackle and went with converted tight end Reid Fragel at right tackle.
Fragel started the Gator Bowl at tight end, but bulked up to nearly 300 pounds in the offseason. He was expected to contend for the starting right tackle spot, but there was also a thought that Marcus Hall and freshman Taylor Decker could be in the mix.
Post-spring depth chart: Jack Mewhort on the left side, with Fragel just ahead of Taylor Decker on the right side.
Mewhort took the first snaps of the spring at left tackle, after playing just about every other position on the line last fall, and he never looked back. There were very few times he wasn’t anchoring the first-team offensive line in the spring, and Meyer called him the leader of the offensive line.
That was before Mewhort’s recent arrest, but he is still likely to open fall camp as the starting left tackle, provided Meyer has him reinstated before then.
Behind Mewhort on the post-spring depth chart was Darryl Baldwin, a converted defensive end who has the size and athleticism to play tackle. The key battle coming out of spring, however, was on the right side of the line, where Decker made a strong push behind Fragel.
Photo by Dan Harker
That will be the key battle to watch during fall camp. Fragel’s physical transformation was remarkable during the offseason. He is big and strong and agile, and would be an excellent run-blocker for the Buckeyes on the right side of the line.
Where Decker enters the equation is his lateral quickness and technique in pass protection, along with his overall understanding of the offensive tackle position. Decker is likely going to be a long-time starter with the Buckeyes, now the only real question is when.
Who is missing?: The Buckeyes will add another name to the mix this summer when Kyle Dodson reports with the rest of the 2012 class for the start of summer semester at Ohio State.
Dodson is another prototypical tackle with excellent size and strength. He is coming off a shoulder injury, but if Dodson is completely healthy for the start of fall camp, and he’s expected to be, he could immediately be in the mix for the two-deep.
A 4-star prospect out of Cleveland Heights, Dodson was originally committed to Wisconsin before he flipped his commitment to Ohio State on National Signing Day. He is still raw, having missed some playing time to injury, but Dodson’s upside is off the charts.
Susceptible to Change or Set in Stone: Very susceptible, at least on the right side, although Mewhort’s suspension leaves everything in limbo heading into fall camp. Otherwise, Mewhort would have been locked in to the starting left tackle spot. Now, the Buckeyes could be forced to slide Decker over to the left side in camp, if Mewhort is going to have to miss any games.
Decker is a prototypical left tackle, and he would be the top guy to replace Mewhort. Baldwin would have to really, really show something during camp to get a real shot at playing early in the season.
Dodson definitely makes things a little more intriguing, especially if Decker ends up spending more time at left tackle. That probably locks up Fragel as the starting right tackle, but Fragel is in a real dogfight for that spot if Mewhort is available on the left side.
Overall prognosis: This group looks a whole lot better than it seemed it possibly could coming off the Gator Bowl loss to Florida. Landing Decker and Dodson basically saved the future of the offensive tackle position at Ohio State, because there are really no real tackles on the team.
Mewhort has spent most of his time at guard, Baldwin was a defensive end and Fragel was a tight end. Whoever the starting tackles are in the opener against Miami (Ohio), they probably haven’t played more than a half of football at offensive tackle for the Buckeyes in past seasons.
Their most experienced guys at tackle, Norwell and Hall, are slated to be the two starting guards to open the season. It’s hard to be pessimistic, however, considering where this group was at just a few months ago.
Ohio State was headed for a scary, scary place on the offensive line before Meyer and his staff took over and saved the day with those two late commitments. That gave the Buckeyes not only some hope for the future, but also some much-needed depth behind Mewhort and Fragel, if those are indeed the two starters to open the year.
Urban's take: “He (Mewhort) is probably our best lineman and he is our most consistent lineman. We don’t have a lot of tackles right now, but Jack can play tackle. Reid Fragel is in a dogfight at right tackle with Taylor Decker.”
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