It all falls in line for Fragel

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Reid Fragel didn't totally start from scratch.

The Ohio State senior spent the first three years of his college career at tight end, but he at least had some previous experience as a lineman.

Granted, it wasn't his choice to make the move during his senior year in high school. He broke his thumb in the last practice before the first game of that season, and the massive protective club that he had to wear on his left hand forced him to find somewhere else to line up.

And the level of competition wasn't even close to what he would eventually find in the Big Ten.

While Fragel was able to survive the quick transition thanks to his massive size and raw athleticism at Grosse Pointe (Mich.) South, when he tried to find a way contribute more consistently for the Buckeyes three years later and made the same move inside to the line, the second go-around didn't go quite as smoothly -- even with two healthy hands at his disposal this time.

"We want to show him a little bit of spring practice film, because he wasn't going to be our right tackle," Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. "He just wasn't -- and the problem was we didn't have any other choices other than a true freshman. In my own mind, I kind of made the decision he wasn't going to be playing right tackle for us.

"Now I think he's played 11 games on an offense that's ranked ninth in the country in rushing offense. [In the spring] I would have argued -- I would have said that can't happen."

Fragel would have won that argument in the end, and after that rough patch early on, he's actually developed into a feared, nasty blocker on a unit that has become one of the most productive in the country on the ground. And it's no coincidence that Fragel's own improvements have mirrored those of the entire group throughout the season, with Ohio State only seeming to get stronger and more comfortable with each passing victory in a perfect 11-0 start.

Given how Fragel seemed to skip a few steps in the learning process and fast-tracked himself into a dominant presence at tackle heading into his last game on Saturday against Michigan, it might be tempting to wonder what he might have been capable of if he hadn't gone back to tight end for the last game of his high school career and spent the next three years working there with the Buckeyes. But neither Meyer nor Fragel have spent much time at this point dwelling on the hypothetical, instead keeping all the focus on how far he's already come, along with the Wolverines.

"I guess somewhere in the back of my mind there's part of me that wonders what could have happened," Fragel said. "I enjoyed my time at tight end. I had some great memories there, so I don't regret anything in the past at all.

"I think I knew [in the spring] what I could do at the position, and I knew that if I pushed myself hard enough, where I could be at. I feel like I'm almost there. I feel comfortable at this position now more than ever. Every week it's been that way, and I've come a long way since fall camp."

It certainly helped that there weren't three pins in his left hand as he made the transition this time, and it surely didn't hurt that Fragel was fully committed to making it work as a lineman and ready to leave his life as a tight end in the past.

Maybe doing it earlier could have turned him into an even more sound technician on the edge of the line and probably given Fragel some better memories of his last spring camp. But nobody is complaining about the outcome now.

"I was raw at the position, and you can kind of get away with some things at the high school level that you can't really get away with at the college level," Fragel said. "I knew it would take time. But with that, I feel like I've gotten better each week."

After this next one, Fragel might now be capable of making one more transition to a higher level of football. And there's no question which position suits him best now.