Ohio State Football: Freshman Taylor Decker Gaining Steam in Right Tackle Battle
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For an offense replacing several starters and bringing in a whole new playbook, coaching staff and identity, Ohio State has the relative luxury of knowing who its best 11 are on offense.
Braxton Miller's the man under center, the offensive line's just about set, Jake Stoneburner is ready to wreak havoc as a wide receiver in an Aaron Hernandez-type role, and Carlos Hyde is holding it down at tailback while Jordan Hall finishes his recovery.
Well, Ohio State almost has its starting 11 figured out, anyway. There's one position that's still not set in stone, and that's right tackle.
Yes, this is a world where J.B. Shugarts is proving difficult to replace. We're just as shocked as you are.
At any rate, the race has boiled down to senior Reid Fragel—a converted tight end—and true freshman Taylor Decker. And while Fragel has the advantage of being enormous (6'8" and a healthy 298 pounds) and experienced as a blocker at the collegiate level, Decker may be gaining momentum in this battle.
Here's more from the Columbus Dispatch:
“It’s not a battle of all-Big Tens yet,” coach Urban Meyer said with typical bluntness. “One guy is learning how to play (the position). One guy is a freshman. They’re trying hard. They’re talented guys. They’re great people. But our production at right tackle is not where it needs to be.”
Decker changed his mind about Notre Dame and signed with Ohio State after Fighting Irish assistants Ed Warinner and Tim Hinton left the Irish to join Meyer’s staff. Decker was one of the first freshmen to impress the new coaching staff by showing a precocious football mind.
“I tried to learn the offense as much as I could before I got here,” Decker said. “A lot of the game is cerebral. If you don’t know what you’re doing, no matter how good an athlete you are, you’re not going to be effective.”
And while the battle for the official starting role could take every single one of the last 17 days before the season begins—if not even longer—there are signs that Decker's getting to the point where he can wrest control of the job.
For one, if he's not the most impressive freshman on offense so far, he's at least the first impressive freshman on offense. Hence, this note from practice on Tuesday:
The 1st frosh on offense to have his stripe removed: OT Taylor Decker! Congratulations to Taylor and his Big Brother Jack Mewhort.— Jerry Emig (@BuckeyeNotes) August 14, 2012
For those unaware, Urban Meyer places black stripes on the helmets of his freshmen at the beginning of preseason camp, per the Toledo Blade. Removing the stripe is a ritual decided upon by a designated veteran (hence Mewhort's mention here; he and Decker are not literally brothers), and for Decker to be the first on offense to lose his portends extremely well for his future.
In terms of where this position battle winds up by the end of the season, Decker's probably going to have wrested control of the top spot by then.
But is he good enough to start Week 1? Tell us what you think.
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