Upperclassmen Help Freshmen Adjust

Ohio State junior left tackle Taylor Decker learned the ropes at Ohio State from 2014 NFL Draft pick Jack Mewhort. Now Decker is at the other end of a program that allows OSU upperclassmen to help the younger players with the transition to college football.

During an early Saturday morning practice on Aug. 9, the Ohio State offensive linemen were going through drills when the voice of their position coach Ed Warinner bellowed through the air.

“I need someone in the freshman class to have a look like this is something (they) want to do for a living,” he said.

The statement wasn’t screamed with malice and didn’t come after a particularly egregious mistake. But it illustrated the difficulty facing the five linemen in the class of 2014 as well as the rest of their peers – being an Ohio State football player is hard.

“It’s a big difference here,” left tackle Taylor Decker said. “You come here, and you’re basically a professional football player. That’s what you do. You play football. So you just have to show them and, like I said, lead by example.”

To help players with that transition, the Ohio State coaching staff has a plan. Players who weren’t early enrollees arrived in June and were subjected to a couple of months under strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti to help develop college-ready bodies.

The impact goes beyond the field, though. During that summer, coaches are analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of the incoming freshmen and determining which of the upperclassmen could benefit them best. Players arrived at the team hotel on Aug. 7 and will spend the next few weeks rooming with their big brother and soaking up all the wisdom they can about life at Ohio State both on and off the field.

“It’s trying to get somebody that’s been in the system that knows how we do business and how we operate to help a young guy learn how to acclimate and how to adjust and how to be a part of this team and the right way to go about it,” Warinner said. “Basically, it’s teaching them how to be a pro about how they do it.

“We try to match guys up that we think would be (compatible) personalities. People listen and respond better when personalities don’t clash or they like each other. You kind of see over the course of the summer who might develop some relationships and try to pair those guys up. Or, if there are certain traits about an older guy that you want this younger guy to take on, you might pair them up. It’s a case-by-case basis, but at the end of the day you’d like for them to form a bond where the younger guy and older guy would like to spend time together and can teach him.”

Decker’s big brother was Jack Mewhort, the departed left tackle who was selected in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts. Decker said that he was “forever indebted” to Mewhort for the lessons he learned.

When it came time to select Mewhort’s replacement at the most important spot on the offensive line, Decker already fit the profile as a tackle who was the only returning starter on the line. But Warinner was even more confident in his choice since he was able to observe Decker learning under Mewhort throughout his career.

“I think Jack over the last 12 to 15 months with Taylor, he really helped teach him how to be a pro about his business – how to work and train and prepare and how to handle himself,” Warinner said. “Jack was the best at it, and it’s showing with Indianapolis and it’s showing with Taylor.”

The cycle is now beginning anew, as Decker has been assigned freshman tackle Brady Taylor, a three-star prospect from Columbus Bishop Ready. Ohio State’s only retuning starter already likes what he’s seen from a player who’s only been in the program for about two months.

“My little brother right now is Brady Taylor, and I’ve been really impressed with him,” Decker said. “I think he’ll be a great player. He listens, he works hard, he runs hard... to see a lineman that comes in and runs hard, that’s a good work ethic.”

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