Meyer Ready To Tackle O-Line Situation

When head coach Urban Meyer was hired at Ohio State, one of his first goals was to address the depth at the tackle position. With the additions of Taylor Decker and Kyle Dodson and the position switch of Reid Fragel, the Buckeyes could be looking at that spot as a position of strength going forward.

When Urban Meyer took over the Ohio State football program on Nov. 28, there was one place he knew he had to make an immediate impact on the OSU depth chart – the offensive tackle position.

With incumbent starters Mike Adams and J.B. Shugarts having played their last games for Ohio State just two days prior – and no clear-cut replacements in the pipeline – Meyer and his staff had to quickly try to bring in talent.

One of the fixes was simple, as tight end Reid Fragel was more than willing to move to tackle and had the body to pull off the switch rather easily. But Meyer knew that wouldn't be enough, which meant it was time to hit the recruiting trail – and quickly.

So when the head coach pulled out the film projector and started making a wish list, two names were at the top – four-star prospects Taylor Decker and Kyle Dodson, both Ohioans.

Just over two months later, both players had sent signed letters of intent to Ohio State, much to the surprise of Meyer.

"We went out in November or December, when we first got here, that night on the videotape, we want those two, get them on the phone," Meyer said. "Bang, now they're part of our class. I mean, that amazed me. I didn't think that could happen."

For a recruiting veteran like Meyer to be amazed is something, it must be good, but perhaps his surprise had something to do with the fact that not only did Meyer get the two players he wanted, he got exactly the kind of players he wanted at the position.

Since taking over, both Meyer and new offensive line coach Ed Warinner have talked about what they want out of players at that position, and large, lumbering figures need not apply.

"Guys that have some footwork, some athleticism will be a prototype guy we'll recruit," Warinner said. "Length is big on the edge because you want to protect the pocket and have good edge in the throwing game. The guys that are over 6-4, that are rangy, athletic. Sometimes they were a tight end. Sometimes they played basketball. Those types of guys are guys you're going to look at."

Ohio State's tackles in recent years haven't exactly been the size of former Michigan State player Flozell "The Hotel" Adams, who was close to 350 pounds during his time as a Spartan. Last year, Adams checked in at 6-7, 323, while Shugarts was 6-7, 300.

But there's no denying that Decker and Dodson fit the large, lean and athletic look the Buckeyes are searching for. Decker, a prospect from Vandalia Butler, was listed at 6-8, 315 pounds on OSU's signing day release, while Cleveland Heights product Dodson stands 6-6, 310.

"That's exactly what we go look for," Meyer said. "Big, athletic guys that can block second-level defenders. Perfect fit."

The late addition of Dodson, who pledged to Wisconsin early in the recruiting process then switched to Ohio State on signing day, was particularly satisfying to Meyer.

"We had to have him," Meyer said. "You get the two offensive tackles that three weeks ago it didn't look like we were even in the running. And the body types are exact. God created two offensive tackles for us."

Those two guys will add depth to a position that will have an interesting battle for playing time in 2011. The only players returning who played any tackle a season ago are Andrew Norwell, Jack Mewhort and Antonio Underwood.

Norwell started the first five games at left tackle with Adams suspended, and Underwood started one game in Shugarts' stead when he was injured for the Purdue game. His cameo lasted only a half before Mewhort was moved to the tackle spot for the remainder of that contest.

Those three will be joined in the battle by Decker and Dodson as well as Fragel, former four-star tackle recruit Marcus Hall, converted D-lineman Darryl Baldwin and redshirt freshmen Tommy Brown and Chris Carter.

No matter how that battle breaks down in 2012, Warinner expects to be able to continue to draw top tackle talent to Columbus given Meyer's reputation.

"They just have to look at the linemen who played at Florida and say, ‘Well hey, those guys are all playing in the NFL,' " Warinner said. "Our tackles are going to be able to learn to do everything that any offense – and most of the offenses that are really doing well in the pro ranks are spread. When you look at the high-powered offenses of the NFL, they are spread. So what our tackles will do will be exactly what those guys will be doing with those teams in the NFL."

That's clearly already paying off, as Ohio State has a commitment in the class of 2013 from four-star tackle prospect Evan Lisle of Centerville.

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