If Ohio State were to have a game today, Taylor Decker would likely trot onto the field as the team’s starting right tackle.
The Buckeyes don’t have a game today.
That’s the reason Decker hasn’t rejoiced with his current positioning, even if it is more comfortable than where he stood during the season last year. In reality, Decker is in the same place he has been since his first day at Ohio State – in a position battle.
“I have to earn the position, and I haven’t done that yet,” said Decker, who is still fighting off Chase Farris in the race to earn the starting spot before Ohio State’s opener vs. Buffalo on Aug. 31. “We still have all of fall camp and I know I have to get better if I want to be a starter at Ohio State.”
Decker spent the first three days of Ohio State’s fall camp taking the majority of the reps with the first team offensive line, a unit that consists of four returning starters that all happen to be seniors.
The right tackle spot is the weak link on an offensive front that has otherwise been considered one of the strengths of Ohio State’s team. Decker won’t be satisfied as long as that statement remains a reality.
“I don’t just want to be in the spot because there’s nobody else,” Decker said. “I want to be in that position because I am good enough. I think it is clear that I have a lot of work to do to lock down that spot and really earn the coaches’ trust.”
As a freshman a year ago, Decker spent the entirety of fall camp battling tight end-turned-offensive tackle Reid Fragel for the starting right tackle spot. Fragel ended up winning the job before putting together a senior season that culminated in a seventh-round selection by the Cincinnati Bengals in April’s NFL Draft.
A former four-star recruit, Decker never thought he’d be so close to a role of that magnitude in his freshman season. Decker didn’t end up earning that role, but the experience of battling a senior like Fragel has transitioned into his second fall camp.
Perhaps that’s why Decker has maintained a level head despite being the clear favorite to win the job this time. It’s not only about winning the job – it’s about being good enough to line up next to the other four senior starters.
And senior guard Andrew Norwell is quick to point out the team is relying on him.
“We have to have all five spots (on the offensive line) working together as a unit out there,” Norwell said. “We set the tone for the offense and with Taylor, he is going to do great. I have no problem with it.”
But Decker wasn’t shy to point out that he didn’t do enough during the spring to assert himself as the clear choice at right tackle, which surely must be rectified in the next few weeks for OSU’s offensive line to be one cohesive – and effective – unit.
Ohio State’s fall camp is still in its infant stages – the Buckeyes have had only one full-contact practice thus far – but offensive line coach Ed Warinner said he’s seen positive improvement from Decker’s game.
But that’s not enough for the battle to end.
“It is about consistency,” Warinner said. “In order to be a starter here you have to show more than glimpses. You have to do it more than simply doing it one day and then not the next. What we tell him is that we’ll call him a starter when he does it day after day after day with consistency.
“That’s kind of the trademark of some of the other guys and how they established themselves as starters. Taylor is headed in that direction because I think he’s had what I’d call three good days in a row, and now we’ll see if he can string those together.”
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