Buckeyes explore options at right tackle

Taylor Decker (68) was making strides last spring but was held off by senior Reid Fragel. Greg Bartram/US Presswire

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ed Warinner barely even needed a second to flash back through nearly three decades in the profession.

If the Ohio State offensive line coach had ever coached four returning starters, all of them seniors, he wouldn’t have had much trouble remembering that unit.

And now that he finally does have one brimming with experience and talent, it’s apparently just as easy for Warinner to climb out of bed these days now that the chance to work with it has arrived. All those veterans also might come in handy for him when he reports to work looking for one more guy to join them as they try to fill the hole at right tackle.

“Makes it easy to get up at 5:30 in the morning to come in here, I can tell you that,” Warinner said.

The Buckeyes don’t appear to be losing much sleep looking for a new guy to become the fifth member of the band up front. Although for an offense loaded with veterans all over the field, plugging the hole at right tackle is among the top priorities -- if not No. 1 on the list.

There isn’t exactly a shortage of options in spring practice, starting with a rising sophomore who nearly won the job from senior Reid Fragel during training camp last fall before the upperclassman pulled away and became one of the most consistent contributors for the most prolific attack in the Big Ten.

Taylor Decker isn’t guaranteed of anything at this point, and former defensive lineman Chase Farris and redshirt freshman Pat Elflein have both given Warinner something to think about. But with a handful of candidates and perhaps a little extra time to focus thanks to the stability elsewhere, not to mention the potential security afforded by having the elusive Braxton Miller at quarterback, there doesn’t appear to be much reason for Warinner to stress.

But even if he doesn’t much mind waking up early to get to work, he’s still stressing the basics.

“We have to teach them what the cadence is, what the splits are, what stance to get in, what each thing means,” Warinner said. “You have to go back through it all. If you take anything for granted, take any shortcuts because you think you have nine starters back [on offense], it will bite you in the butt.

“We go back to ground zero, but thank goodness ground zero is a little higher up because there’s some stored knowledge, there’s some cumulative experience. We still are covering those basic things that we covered the first day, the second day, the third day last year -- it’s just that it doesn’t take as long for it register now.”

That process is understandably smoother at each of the four spots to the left of Decker or Farris, who have shared time working with the first team throughout spring drills.

They both have shown glimpses of being able to pick up where Fragel left off last season, with Farris bringing a nasty attitude and Decker the kind of natural ability that helped him push for playing time in the first place. But the bar is certainly higher than it was when Decker was nipping at Fragel’s heels during training camp last fall.

“That’s the hardest position to make a jump, so I don’t know,” coach Urban Meyer said. “We hope [Decker does], he’s probably a little ahead of where Fragel was at this time, but we’ll find out if he makes the same strides as Fragel did.”

Farris has already made a leap of his own and was regularly singled out for praise from Meyer as a versatile backup last season. And Elflein has added even more depth by proving to be a quick study after spending his first year in the program on the sideline, though if he did win a job, it likely would be on the inside and require somebody else to shift to right tackle.

The position will come with high expectations for keeping Miller protected and opening up holes for a high-octane rushing attack.

But for now, making a final decision is at least one thing Warinner can hit the snooze button on.