August 23, 2012

From tight end to tackle, Fragel at home on line

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - In any traditional positional battle, a senior would almost always have the edge over a true freshman. But the competition for who will start for the Buckeyes at right tackle in 2012 is far from traditional.

Having just arrived on the Ohio State campus in March, true freshman Taylor Decker finds himself in the thick of things when it comes to the Buckeyes' right tackle position. However, that might only because the player he's competing with has as many years of experience playing on the offensive line at the college level as he does.

In the first three seasons of his college career, Reid Fragel saw significant playing time for the Buckeyes as a tight end. But thanks to his 6-foot-8, 280-pound frame, he wasn't always a pass-catcher as much as he was extra offensive lineman.

And with the three-year starter J.B. Shugarts' eligibility having expired, the Buckeyes' had a hole on their offensive line at right tackle. So once Urban Meyer and his coaching staff took over the Ohio State program at the start of 2012, they decided to make Fragel's position change official.

But moving to right tackle wasn't as easy as changing his jersey number from 88 to 77. Fragel has gained 30 pounds since the end of the 2011 season and now finds himself weighing 310 pounds.

The Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich. native hasn't minded his new regimen.

"That's not a problem eating more," Fragel said with a laugh. "(Ohio State strength) Coach (Mickey) Marotti's done a great job too with the team in general, just adding weight and shedding bad weight, so with the nutritionist that we have too and a combination of Coach Marotti's workouts, it's been pretty easy to put on weight and make the transition."

Despite his physical gains, Fragel said that the biggest change in his approach since moving to the offensive line has come between his ears.

"It's more of a mental part, just learning the position and recognizing certain looks on the defense," Fragel said. "Just getting the footwork down, which I think has come a long way. Right now, I think it's just repetition and learning the plays and getting the looks in against the defense."

His hard work appears to have paid off as Fragel entered fall camp as the Buckeyes' No. 1 right tackle. But his starter status is far from secure, as Meyer has made it clear that if there's one weak link on the Ohio State offense right now, it's at right tackle.

"The two guards are playing very well, the center's playing well, and the left tackle's playing well. The right tackle's got to get a little better," Meyer said. "They're trying. One at times looks like a freshman because he is and one looks like a guy that just moved from tight end."

Meyer said that he's not yet ready to name a starter at the position yet, but as of Tuesday, Fragel was still working with the Buckeyes' first-team offense. If the newly numbered right tackle keeps improving the way he claims to have been, the job could be his to lose.

"Every day, throughout the two-a-days and one-a-days or whatever, me personally getting game reps in practice has really helped me develop," Fragel said. "Looking at it on paper doesn't really help as much as going out there and actually getting a feel for it."

Having a newly converted tight end playing one of the most important positions on the offensive line could be viewed as a potential issue for the Buckeyes, but for Fragel, he feels right at home in his new position.

"I've always felt like I was a blocker at heart and moving from tight end to tackle, the foot work and pass protection was probably my biggest concern," Fragel said. "Once I've started to get that down a little more each day, I feel like it's more and more comfortable."


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