Fragel, Decker Learning As They Battle

Reid Fragel and Taylor Decker are locked in one of the few true position battles of Ohio State's first preseason football practice under new head coach Urban Meyer. Both have challenges to overcome as they work to win the right tackle job.

Ohio State has four starters entrenched on the offensive line, but everyone loves a tail of competition. That's where Reid Fragel and Taylor Decker enter.

The veteran Fragel was the early favorite to win the job of starting right tackle for the Buckeyes, but newcomer Decker made a somewhat surprising push in the spring and has continued to come on during the first half of preseason camp.

They do not have much in common except this: Neither has past college experience at the position for which they are vying.

Fragel spent three seasons as a tight end before Ohio State's switch to a spread offense under new head coach Urban Meyer prompted him to think he might be better off moving closer to the center. Decker, meanwhile, was still in high school this time a year ago.

As such, both have plenty to learn, as Meyer pointed out on the team's media day last Sunday.

"It's not a battle of All-Big Tens yet," Meyer said. "It's guys that are still learning. One guys is learning how to play it, one guy is a freshman. They're trying hard. They're talented guys, great people, but our production at right tackle is not where it needs to be right now."

The two both bring good size (Fragel is 6-8 and 298 pounds while Decker checks in at 6-7, 310) but continue to refine their skills.

Fragel said he feels he has an advantage physically thanks to three extra years in a college weight room, but learning pass blocking has proved no easy task.

Decker has been furiously adding weight to his frame for more than a year, but he admitted he is still developing strength to go along with his athleticism.

"When I was younger in high school I was a real thin guy who didn't lift a lot of weights, so just letting my body fill out more should help me as far as physically competing," Decker said.

He is also learning a new style of offense and pass blocking techniques that are new to him while getting acclimated to college life.

"I try to come off the ball well, study hard and know everything," Decker said. "Reid does those things well also. I just need to work on building upper body strength. And as I said before, I'm really raw in my technique especially in pass blocking because I've never done kick steps before coming to Ohio State." 

Pass protection is also somewhat new for Fragel, who proved to be a powerful run blocker during his days as a tight end but rarely had to drop back to protect the quarterback when the Buckeyes chose to go to the air earlier in his career.

"That's been my biggest focus – every day getting better in pass protection," Fragel said. "So far, I think I've done a good job with that and getting better every day." 

Feeling comfortable with his body, Fragel said the adjustment upstairs is No. 1 for him.

"Right now for me it's all mental," he said. "I know in my mind physically I can block anybody. It's just learning new footwork for pass protection. Our offense is different in the aspect of where there tackles have to know just as much as the quarterback does, so not only learning a new offense your first year at tackle and the responsibilities that come with that adds some challenge to it, but we're gelling right now and I feel great right now."

Part of his education has come via fellow senior John Simon, an All-America candidate at defensive end who possesses a formidable combination of strength and quickness. He is a relentless rusher who does not take any repetition in practice for granted.

"That's the way you want it," Fragel said. "As bad as it sounds, you've got to block the best guy in the country, that's just great practice there. You're not going to get many guys better than Johnny Simon or Michael Bennett. They're going to give you their best and in turn you're going to give them your best. You've got to react to the best, so it's just kind of helping us all around in the end." 

He looks for the competition from the other side of the ball and from within his position meeting room to push him as he enters his last year in scarlet and gray.

"I personally respond well to pressure," Fragel said. "He's a really great athlete, a great kid. I Respect him. It is a battle. Every day I'm trying to get better and better to try to make it less of a battle. At the end of the day, I think the better man will win and that will be your starting right tackle for Ohio State." 

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