Spring Practice Insider: Warinner Feeling Good about Line
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ed Warinner has been in enough offensive meeting rooms with Urban Meyer to know what Ohio State’s new head coach thinks of the line’s play up front this spring.
Ed Warinner shares a "teaching moment" with Jack Mewhort.
Photo by Jim Davidson
On Wednesday, Meyer called the first group “adequate” and said the backups were a “problem” despite the fact Warinner’s group had gone through such a complete physical overhaul in Mickey Marotti’s off-season workout.
“It’s not a lack of effort,” Warinner said after practice Friday.
“It’s not like the kids are slacking off. It just takes time. We’re a work-in-progress; we’re adequate like Coach Meyer said. We’re working to be OK and then we’re working to be good so we can keep working to be really good.”
According to Warinner, his offensive linemen have averaged “about 20 pounds of fat” this off-season while adding about 10 pounds of muscle. That has been a good for a lot of the younger guys, but also for a veteran like Marcus Hall.
“The guy who is coming along who is maybe a little bit of a pleasant surprise right now is Marcus,” Warinner said of the fourth-year junior out of Cleveland’s Glenville High School.
oversees offensive line drills.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“Marcus has always had some abilities. He had some setbacks here in the past, I understand, but now he’s got a clean slate; a fresh start. He’s rolling along and I see progress from him.
“I really feel like he’s made a lot of progress every day.”
Hall has been working as the first-team right guard in camp this spring after moving around to a number of different positions during his previous three seasons at Ohio State. He is in the best shape of his playing career, which is important in Meyer’s new fast-paced offensive system.
That is just lke Reid Fragel, a converted tight end who bulked up to nearly 300 pounds this off-season while maintaining less than 10 percent body fat. Oh, and he happens to be 6-8 and runs like a tight end.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“Reid is doing great. He’s everything you could want from a tackle in our system,” said Warinner.
“We want long, athletic guys who can block and Reid fits that mold perfectly. All the raw tools are there, he just has to work on his footwork and his technique, but he’s getting better each and every day.”
Watching his former position mates running around making catches in Meyer’s wide-open attack might have made some guys second-guess their decision to become a full-time offensive lineman this spring, but not Fragel.
He is feeling more like a fish in water every day that he spends at right tackle.
“Obviously, a transition like this will take some time. But every day I get more and more confident,” he said Friday.
“I never had a doubt about switching. I was more confident as a blocking tight end than I was running corner routes.”
Fragel said he sees his buddy, Jake Stoneburner, out there running routes and catching passes the way he always wanted to, and can’t help but smiling about how things have worked out for the both of them.
After sharing the same position for the past two seasons, Fragel and Stoneburner will likely be on the field together a lot more often in 2012. Fragel doesn’t have a lot of time to worry about what Stoneburner is doing over at tight end these days, however, because he is learning a new position in a new style of offense that has even the veteran offensive linemen scrambling to catch up.
“Thing are a lot different for our line. Between what we’re asking them to do and the variety of things, it’s different,” Warinner said.
“But football is football. Sometimes they forget the fundamentals when they are thinking about the new concepts and new terms. It just takes time.”
Along with having Hall and Fragel on the right side of the line, Warinner feels good about the combination of Jack Mewhort and Andrew Norwell over on the left side. The staff tinkered with some different ideas about who should play where up front this season, but ultimately felt Norwell was a better guard than tackle in the new system.
They also felt good about the possibility of moving Mewhort from guard, where he played last season, out to left tackle, where he can use his athleticism on the edge.
“Just our evaluation of him in the offseason program and where we thought he was at athletically,” Warinner said.
“And with his experience-level, we felt that was the best place for him in our system. This is the fifth time I’ve gone to a school and installed the spread, so kind of have a feel for that.”
Warinner also has an eye for talent, and right now he is high on true freshman Taylor Decker. The Vandalia Butler product would normally still be in high school if Ohio State was not on quarters.
Instead, he is working with the Buckeyes this spring, and has already surpassed any expectations Meyer and Warinner could have had for a young guy walking in to a completely foreign situation at Ohio State.
“He’s playing both tackle spots for us right now,” Warinner said.
“Every day in practice he plays both sides. He’s worked his way into being the first backup, the third tackle. Big kid, very smart. Very football-smart. Maybe smarter than anyone else in my room.”
Warinner also said Tony Underwood, a second-year player out of Shaker Heights, is his third guard right now—the true backup at both left and right if anything were to happen.
That probably says as much about the depth as anything Meyer has gone on the record with, but the Buckeyes do have three more linemen on the way. Freshmen Kyle Dodson, Joey O’Connor and Pat Elflein will enroll in June.
Dodson will certainly be at tackle once he recovers from shoulder surgery, while the other two are expected to play guard. The Buckeyes pretty full at center right now with Corey Linsley, Jacoby Boren and Brian Bobek all fighting for reps.
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