July 7, 2012

Buckeyes new offensive tackles lack experience

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With Ohio State's fall camp a month away from kicking off, we at Buckeye Grove have decided to take a look at the roster that Urban Meyer will be working with in his first year as Ohio State's head coach. Today, we'll take a look at the current state of the Buckeyes' offensive tackles. You can see yesterday's preview of the Ohio State running backs by clicking here.

When Mike Adams and J.B. Shugarts graduated following the 2011 season, the Ohio State football team lost a combined six years of starting experience at its two offensive tackle positions. And ever since then, replacing the Buckeyes' former bookends has only gotten tougher for head coach Urban Meyer

At the end of spring camp, it appeared that Meyer had found the successors to Adams and Shugarts in Jack Mewhort and Reid Fragel, respectively. But after Mewhort pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct charge in June, the Buckeyes' left tackle has his scholarship removed and is currently not currently a member of the Ohio State roster.

It's possible- in fact likely- that Mewhort will work his way back onto the team by the start of the regular season- but as it currently stands, the Buckeyes will head into fall camp with two starting tackles who are each playing on the offensive line for the first time in their respective careers.

Backing up Mewhort at left tackle in the spring was converted defensive lineman Daryl Baldwin. A 6-foot-5, 292-pound third-year sophomore from Solon, Ohio, Baldwin moved to the offensive line after the Ohio State coaching staff determined that a position change would give him the best chance at seeing playing time while in Columbus.

"We felt his best chance to play and help the team was on offense," Meyer said of Baldwin during a spring press conference. "Darryl came in and talked about it and he was great."

Although Baldwin is currently Ohio State's starting left tackle by default, it's unlikely that he'll find himself starting for the Buckeyes' when they kick-off against Miami (Ohio) University on Sept. 1. Barring any setbacks or unforeseen events, Mewhort is expected to return to the Buckeyes roster, where he'll assume the role of its most experienced lineman.

A fourth-year junior, Mewhort spent 2011 as Ohio State's starting left guard, a position he played for the first three years of his college career. At 6-foot-6, 310 pounds, Mewhort has the size to play the offensive line's most important position, although he's still inexperienced at protecting the quarterback's blindside from the edge rushers of the Big Ten.

A wildcard to the Buckeyes' left tackle position could be incoming freshman Kyle Dodson. A four-star prospect out of Cleveland, Ohio, the 6-foot-6, 315-pound Dodson has the size to play right away at the college level, and it wouldn't be surprising to see the former Wisconsin commit jump at least Baldwin on the depth chart by the end of fall camp.

On the right side of the line, another Buckeye playing a new position for the first time currently sets atop the depth chart in Fragel. A former tight end, the 6-foot-8 Fragel spent the first three years of his college career backing up Jake Stoneburner, while also serving as Ohio State's primary blocking tight end.

Since the end of the 2011, Fragel has gained around 20 pounds to bump him up to the 300 pound mark, and according to Meyer, he's also improved his work ethic away from the field.

"He was very lazy in the classroom, and oftentimes lazy-in-the-classroom correlates into lazy-on-the-football-field," Meyer said of Fragel. "He has a terrific family and we had a little conversation and I'm really proud of him."

While Fragel is currently entrenched as the Buckeyes' starter at right tackle, he might not be there for long. True freshman Taylor Decker, an early-enrollee, is making a strong push for Fragel's starting job- a development that has caused Meyer to deem his offensive line as "functional."

"I would put them as non-functional in January, and then functional after spring practice," Meyer said of the offensive line.

At 6-foot-8, 315 pounds, Decker- like Dodson- has the size to play right away and college, and with as many spring camps at right tackle under his belt as Fragel, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Vandalia, Ohio native in the Buckeyes' starting line-up agains the Redhawks.

In the event of an emergency, 6-foot-3, 310-pound junior walk-on Ivon Blackman could see time at either tackle position.


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