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Taylor Decker's return crucial for Ohio State in '15

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Another year may well give Taylor Decker’s professional stock a lift.

That’s not guaranteed, obviously. But if there is such a thing as a stone-cold lock, the boost Ohio State figures to receive from having the starting left tackle around for one more season might just qualify.

Decker’s impact goes far beyond the crucial position he holds down for the No. 4 Buckeyes, the powerful presence he provides as both a road-clearing blocker, the wall he provides as protector in the passing game or his two years of first-team experience up front. Off the field, he might be even better, and with Urban Meyer always looking for his next great leader, it’s already a safe bet that Decker will become the prime example for work ethic, the voice of the program and a surefire captain heading into his senior season.

Though, of course, he’s not yet done with his work as a junior with the College Football Playoff National Championship Presented By AT&T set for Monday night against No. 2 Oregon.

“I wasn’t really wanting to get into that prior to this game, but I’m coming back for my senior year,” Decker said. “You know, personally, growing up I wanted to play here and this is my first year at a new position, and I’ve seen projections of where I could go, but I think for the most part I’m kind of under the radar. So, I think another year, barring something drastic happening, can only benefit me.

“You know, my draft stock can only go up, and I have goals that I haven’t accomplished yet here.”

Since his decision has been made prior to the title game, it’s safe to assume that those accomplishments are probably personal, so Decker declined to go into any detail about what they might be for fear of calling too much attention to himself.

That’s yet another example of the team-first approach that has already made Decker so invaluable to the Buckeyes this season, even if for the most part seniors like Michael Bennett and Evan Spencer have carried the torch and set the tone on the run to a Big Ten title and a victory in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

But Decker’s impact as the only returning starter on an offensive line that was effectively rebuilt entirely from a year ago shouldn’t be overlooked, particularly given the early struggles for the unit as Ohio State was shockingly upset by Virginia Tech in Week 2. He called back to his own transition into the lineup the previous season and the rude awakening to the demands of playing a full-time role he had as a sophomore to help bring along his inexperienced teammates. That, in some ways, gave offensive line coach Ed Warinner another assistant to help speed up the process on the practice field and in games. And while it has already given him a valuable leadership role within that group, it seems like a safe bet to expand to the rest of the team moving forward.

Certainly, his contributions on the field are nothing to scoff at either. And with defensive tackle Adolphus Washington and postseason superstar quarterback Cardale Jones both joining him this week in expressing their desire to return, the Buckeyes appear to pretty much be retaining all the pieces they need to make another push for a championship again next year.

“When I was in high school, I didn’t think it was going to happen, because I didn’t really get any interest from here,” Decker said. “But it was something that I really wanted, and to be given that opportunity, I’ve just done everything I can to be successful. You know, it is a really good feeling and gratifying when you accomplish something huge like that, and I’ve loved my time here. I like being here, I like playing for Ohio State and representing this university, and that’s important to me.

“I love playing with my friends, on the line especially. Once I leave here, I can never come back.”

So Decker is in no hurry to find the exit. And however that might help him individually, it figures to benefit the Buckeyes even more.