Spring Position Battles to Watch: Offensive Tackle
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Few positions will be more interesting to watch this spring than the offensive line, where Urban Meyer and line coach Ed Warinner plan to overhaul the way things are done up front.
That means taller, quicker guys on the offensive line, and mobile interior linemen who can get out and block in space. That’s a big adjustment from the previous coaching staff, but it appears as though most of the guys on the line have really bought into Meyer and Mickey Marotti’s off-season workout program.
This week, we will take a look at some of the most important position battles to keep an eye on this spring, and we continue that today with a look at the offensive tackle position, where OSU must replace two starters from a year ago.
Shoes to Fill: Mike Adams, J.B. Shugarts
Photo by Dan Harker
Now that it’s all said and done, it’s a little bit remarkable that J.B. Shugarts started more games in his OSU career than Mike Adams, and not just because of the five-game suspension for Adams to start the 2011 season.
It took Adams a few years to really get into a rhythm and find himself as a player. He struggled early on to handle guys like Thad Gibson and Cameron Heyward in practice, but by his junior year, Adams had developed into one of the best tackles in the country.
The Buckeyes are going to miss Adams’ pass-blocking ability on Braxton Miller’s blindside. While things weren’t nearly as consistent on the other side of the line, the OSU coaches always knew Shugarts was going to be out there ready to go.
He was able to overcome chronic foot problems to be a three-year starter for the Buckeyes, although not too many fans will miss his frequent habit of jumping the snap count.
The Favorites: Andrew Norwell (6-6, 304, Jr.) & Reid Fragel (6-8, 298, Sr.)
Photo by Jim Davidson
If the Buckeyes opened their season this week, it stands to reason that Andrew Norwell would be the team’s starting left tackle. Norwell started the first five games at left tackle last season before moving inside to left guard after Adams returned from his suspension.
At 6-6, 304 pounds, Norwell is more of a tackle than a guard, which is good, because the Buckeyes don’t have many true tackles on the current roster. That’s why converted tight end Reid Fragel could get the first chance to replace Shugarts at the right tackle spot (he better show up early for practice).
Fragel was an excellent blocker as a tight end and had the ideal frame for making the switch to tackle during the off-season. He has only one year left, but it sounds like he is going to make it count.
The 6-8 Fragel is up to 297 pounds this off-season, and did an incredible job sculpting his body. He could be one of the true surprises of the spring for Meyer and the Buckeyes.
The Challengers: Marcus Hall (6-5, 315, rJr.) & Jack Mewhort (6-6, 310, rJr.)
If Fragel, who is up to 297 pounds this off-season, isn’t ready to play tackle on the big stage, Ohio State will likely turn to either Marcus Hall or Jack Mewhort. Both players from the class of 2009 have played meaningful snaps at right tackle, but it’s hard to say for sure which one will get more of a look on the outside.
Mewhort played left guard, right guard and right tackle for the Buckeyes last season, and he would seem to be the more capable one of playing tackle, if needed. Hall started a game at right tackle as a freshman in 2009 but he has been playing mostly inside as a guard since then.
Along with Mewhort, Hall is one of the more versatile players on the line for Ohio State, but that makes it hard to say exactly where he fits best.
The Darkhorse: Taylor Decker (6-8, 313, Fr.)
The one true difference-maker in the whole equation could be incoming freshman Taylor Decker. One of the top signings in the class of 2012, Decker is graduated early from Vandalia Butler High School and enrolled at Ohio State in March.
He will wear No. 68 this spring and could compete at either tackle spot, although ultimately he would seem to project as a true left tackle for the future.
He has ideal size and mobility for both Meyer and new offensive line coach Ed Warinner, who had originally recruited Decker to play at Notre Dame. There is no telling how quickly he will pick up the nuances of playing the position at the college level, but the natural intangibles are definitely there.
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