2012 Buckeye Rewind – Offensive Tackles
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — There were a number of obvious concern areas on Ohio State’s football team when Urban Meyer took over the program last January.
The linebackers were thin, the receivers were coming off a very disappointing season in 2011 and the Buckeyes still didn’t have a reliable backup quarterback for young Braxton Miller. He had his own share of concerns coming off an up and down rookie campaign, but no area was more of a concern than the offensive line.
The Buckeyes were losing three seniors – the three members of supposed ‘Block O’ from the class of 2008 – and there weren’t a whole lot of options for replacing guys like Mike Adams, Michael Brewster and J.B. Shugarts.
In today’s Buckeye Rewind, we will focus in on the offensive tackle position and how Jack Mewhort and Reid Fragel emerged to solidify things on front lines for Meyer and the Buckeyes in 2012.
Expectations Coming Into The Season
Photo by Dan Harker
It kind of depends when we are talking about. Expectations for the offensive line in the spring were about as low as they have at Ohio State in quite some time. Meyer called the offense a ‘clown show’ after one of his practices and he consistently mentioned the offensive line as a huge area of concern.
Mewhort, a junior out of Toledo, had moved out to left tackle after playing just about every other position on the offensive line. Most people had expected Andrew Norwell to take that position after starting the first five games of 2011 at left tackle.
Meyer hired a former Notre Dame and Kansas assistant to coach his offensive line, and Ed Warinner felt Mewhort was better suited for the tackle position in this new offense. The 6-6 Mewhort handled the transition rather well in the spring, but he found himself suspended over the summer, causing some concern over whether he could really be the leader this team needed him to be.
Especially with a former tight end in Reid Fragel trying to lock down the other tackle spot on the right side of the line. Fragel had started the Gator Bowl at tight end in place of the injured Jake Stoneburner, but quickly went about adding 30 pounds to his 6-8 frame during the offseason.
By spring, he was ready to play inside at tackle but quickly found himself in a tightly-contested battle with freshman Taylor Decker.
How the Season Played Out
The battle between Fragel and Decker would play out all the way into fall camp before it finally became apparent the senior was going to hold off his young competitor. This could have been a situation where neither guy really won the position so they went with the older guy, but that simply wasn’t the case.
Photo by Dan Harker
Meyer raved about the progress Fragel made from spring to fall and he quietly became one of the better players on the offensive line for the Buckeyes in 2012. Fragel had always been an excellent run blocker, but he developed his pass blocking enough that the Buckeyes were able to solidify their protection for Braxton Miller on the outside.
Fragel was leading the way on a number Miller’s big runs in 2012, along with some of the big ones from Carlos Hyde, but it was Mewhort who really emerged as the star of the offensive line.
He became a fixture at the left tackle position and a leader for the Buckeyes on offense, which was still a young group in 2012.
What Should We Expect in 2013
With Mewhort back for his senior season at Ohio State, the Buckeyes are about as solidified as they could every hope for on the left side of their line. Mewhort was named second team All-Big Ten by the media this year and Honorable Mention by the coaches.
He also shared The Ozonie Award for most Outstanding Offensive Lineman with Fragel, and Mewhort should only be stronger and better as a fifth-year senior in 2013. He will anchor the line as a 3-year starter, but the onus will be on young Taylor Decker to replace Fragel on the other side.
It’s also possible the Buckeyes could move some bodies around on the line if Decker isn’t ready to be the fifth starter up front. Chase Farris, a sophomore out of Elyria was a name Meyer threw around quite a bit during the 2012 season.
At 6-4, 290 pounds, Farris seems like a guard more than a tackle, but either he or Norwell could slip out to play right tackle if Decker isn’t going to be the guy. It seems like they would want Decker to get his feet wet playing tackle this season, because he may very well be the guy to replace Mewhort in 2014.
Back in December of 2011 we wrote that one of Meyer’s first, and biggest challenges, at Ohio State would be to fix the offensive line. The first thing he had to do was find a couple guys who could play offensive tackle.
They could have gone a number of different directions. Both Norwell and Marcus Hall had previously started games at offensive tackle in their OSU careers. Same with Antonio Underwood, but kudos to Meyer, and especially to Warinner, for recognizing what they had in both Mewhort and Fragel.
This could have been a disastrous year for the offensive line. Whenever you’re moving a tight end inside to play tackle, and he immediately becomes the starter, it says you don’t have enough good tackles.
In Fragel’s case, he turned out to be a pretty good fit at right tackle. It’s too bad he doesn’t have another year or two on the offensive line in Meyer’s system. He’s probably going to collect a paycheck in the NFL next year, but he could have blossomed into one of the better tackles in the country.
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