Right time for Decker to play left.

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Last updated: 03/14/2014 1:57 AM
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Football
Now Is the Right Time for Taylor Decker to Play Left Tackle
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS, Ohio — There is something poetic about the last tackle left now playing left tackle.

Taylor Decker started in all 14 games at right tackle last season as a sophomore for the Buckeyes, bringing up the rear of an offensive line that featured four seniors and seemingly more career starts than Cy Young. Now he is the lone returning starter on the line and the leader of a group in need of solid direction.

He will be leading that unit from his new left tackle position, and absolutely nobody is surprised by the move. Left tackle is a natural progression for many right tackles, and was always the assumed next step for Decker once Jack Mewhort moved on to the NFL.

At 6-foot-7 and 315 pounds, and with the type of feet that coaches look for, it would be difficult to design a better looking left tackle prospect. The only thing missing is experience, and even that isn't much of a concern because the left side is not an unfamiliar home for Decker. In fact, it's his former address.

"When I was younger in high school, I had always been on the left," he said. 

"Then when I came here, they asked me to flip sides in practice, and you do whatever coach tells you to do. It was a good experience to have, trying to be versatile."

That versatility saw Decker get repetitions at left tackle in practices last year as a sophomore. So even in college, this is not a new situation for the junior from Vandalia, Ohio.

Moving to the left side will only be the second-most dramatic move that Decker has made in the last few years. The most dramatic was when he decommitted from Notre Dame in January of 2012 to commit to Ohio State.

Neither Jim Tressel or Luke Fickell's staff offered Decker a scholarship while he was in high school, but it was one of the first things that Urban Meyer did after being hired by Ohio State. The Buckeye offense is much better off for the way things turned out, and now with the move to left tackle, his coaches are asking him to continue proving them right.

Decker seems ready to oblige, and finds confidence in the trust of his coaches.

"I try not to worry too much about that because the coaches wouldn't put me in the position if they didn't think that I could handle it," he said of the move. 

"So I trust in the coaches and I trust that they have confidence in me and I just need to continue to have confidence in myself."

That confidence will come from Decker's familiarity with the position, but more than anything else, it will come from his immense talent. 

Offensive line coach Ed Warinner saw that talent on display all season long a year ago, but noticed an uptick as the season moved from September to November.

"He finished the last year strong at right tackle," Warinner explained. 

"He rotated at practice at both sides and toward the end of the year, maybe the last two or three games of the season, if you watched the film, he probably played the best of any of the tackles or maybe anybody on the O-line. 

"We hope he can pick up from there and transition to the left side and take that job and hold it down for the next few years. I think he should. I'd be really surprised if someone could knock him out of that slot."

The Buckeyes fielded arguably the greatest offensive line in school history a season ago, so for Warinner to say that Decker may have been playing better than anybody else should not be taken lightly. Those are bold words from a person paid very well to know what he's talking about.

Aside from their obvious infatuation with running the ball, Ohio State needs to protect their quarterbacks, and it starts with the left tackle. For an offense based on the rapid distribution of the football, keeping the quarterback upright is a priority of the highest order.

In Taylor Decker, Warinner seems very confident that he has found the right guy for the job, and provided everything goes as planned, Decker will have nothing left to prove.

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