The Replacements: Offensive Tackle

Andrew Norwell

Ohio State's offensive line is in need of a rebuild, and the starting tackle spots must be filled this offseason after the graduations of Mike Adams and J.B. Shugarts. In the continuation of a series, BuckeyeSports.com looks at the candidates for the roles.

The position: Offensive Tackle

The guys leaving: Mike Adams and J.B. Shugarts

Their credentials: Everyone remembers the famed Block "O" recruiting class of Adams, Shugarts and Brewster, and all of them spent at least two seasons as the starter at their position.

Both Adams and Shugarts started for two years and change after getting their feet wet in 2008 while battling injuries. Shugarts moved into the starting rotation at right tackle in 2009 for a team that went to the Rose Bowl. Adams continued to fight injury that season but did get his first starting nod.

Finally, the two became full-time starters in 2010, as both Adams and Shugarts started every game. Adams finished the season as a first-team All-Big Ten choice, while Shugarts gutted through a foot injury.

Adams got caught up in offseason scandal, selling his Big Ten championship ring, which forced him to sit out the first five games in 2011. Upon his return, Adams started the last eight games, serving as a dominating run blocker and solid pass protector and still earning second-team All-Big Ten honors. Shugarts again battled injury but started all but one game for the Buckeyes.

The Contenders
Andrew Norwell, Jr. 6-5, 308
The Case For: Norwell entered Ohio State as the No. 2-rated tackle in the class of 2010 and the No. 8 overall prospect. The Cincinnati Anderson graduate played some as a true freshman before moving into the starting lineup a season ago. Norwell took over for Adams at left tackle the first five games and looked solid, then moved to left guard and was a dominating run blocker, helping Adams control that side of the line. He has excellent size, solid quickness and a fair amount of nastiness in his playing style.

The Case Against: Norwell settled in at guard a season ago and might be best suited to stay at that position. There could be some major shifting along the line, so it's hard to see where everyone will fall.

Antonio Underwood, So., 6-3, 305
The Case For: Underwood was Shugarts' backup a season ago and started when the senior did not play against Purdue. He showed the ability to hold his own on the edge during practice sessions, especially when compared to the rest of his classmates a season ago.

The Case Against: Simply put, Underwood struggled mightily against Purdue in his start and had to be replaced by the time the game hit halftime. While he has potential, he might not be as ready as some of the other options at the position.

Jack Mewhort, Jr., 6-6, 303
The Case For: Mewhort had dabbled at tackle in his Ohio State career and has ideal size for the position. He's also a pretty good athlete for his size and boasts excellent strength. Mewhort also has experience after starting at both guard positions in 2011. By all indications, he's taken to the team's offseason program and is impressing the coaching staff in an effort to earn this spot.

The Case Against: Mewhort can also play center if needed and really excelled at guard a season ago. In other words, he too might be best served staying where he was a season ago, and his pro prospects seem best at guard. He also doesn't have much on-field experience at tackle.

Reid Fragel, Sr., 6-8, 280
The Case For: Fragel is massive. There's little doubt he has the size for the position, and he tweeted recently that he's nearing the 300-pound mark. Playing tight end the past three seasons, he earned plenty of experience run-blocking on the edge and occasionally did some pass protection as well. History shows athletic tight ends have the ability to switch to tackle in college and have success.

The Case Against: Fragel's lack of experience at the position is a red flag; he might excel at the position, but until it's shown on the field, there will always be that question mark. Spring football will be huge for him, especially when it comes to proving he can handle edge rushers.

Marcus Hall, Jr., 6-3, 315
The Case For: It seems like a long time ago, but Hall actually earned one start at right tackle in 2009 as a true freshman. He was a four-star offensive tackle coming out of Cleveland Glenville and earned some starting experience at guard in 2011.

The Case Against: Hall seems more suited to guard, the spot he played a season ago. He's also fallen out of favor a bit thanks to an academic suspension in 2010 and a violation of NCAA rules in 2011, but perhaps a new sheriff in town will give him a second life.

Taylor Decker, Fr., 6-8, 315
The Case For: Decker was ranked as one of the best offensive tackles in the country coming out of high school and has great size and athleticism. The Vandalia Butler product also hopes to enroll early and brings a tenacious attitude to things. A member of the Scout 100, Decker was described as a must-have recruit by new head coach Urban Meyer and could find himself in the two-deep early.

The Case Against: Experience, obviously. Decker will be a newcomer in 2012 and will have to fight players above him with more time at the college level. Scout also lists strength as a place he needs to get better, though he will get the chance to go through summer conditioning.

Kyle Dodson, Fr., 6-6, 310
The Case For: Scout lists his strengths as his nasty streak, power and strength, and size. That's not a bad combination for a tackle prospect to have, and he brings the size to the position Meyer and his staff will be looking for.

The Case Against: Again, it comes back to experience, and Dodson still needs to work on some of the nuances of the position. He'll be battling not only players who have more time in the program above him, he'll be going up against a higher-rated true freshman in Decker.

The likely outcome: There seems to be an endless amount of permutations involving the offensive line, but Fragel could be in line for a spot if he can prove his worth at tackle. If not, there are plenty of options. Mewhort and Norwell have the most experience among those in the battle and at least one figures to earn a starting spot on the edge. Of course, no one can be ruled out, especially with two talented freshmen entering the fray.

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