- Austin Ward, ESPN Staff Writer
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Heading into the new year and offseason workouts, BuckeyeNation will look at some holes left by the departing Ohio State veterans and potential candidates to fill them.
Who: Ohio State was unsettled even midway through training camp as it looked to fill the last available spot on the offensive line, but it clearly found a winner after Reid Fragel nudged ahead in the position battle and never looked back. The converted tight end bulked up his body and soaked up the technique at right tackle, and his nasty blocking in the run game and reliable work in protection provided an invaluable boost for the spread offense in Urban Meyer's first season. It stands to reason that Fragel could have been even more special as a lineman if he'd been able to spend more than one year there, but that development will now come after a likely selection in the NFL draft this spring.
By the numbers: The Buckeyes featured a power rushing attack before Meyer arrived, but he took it to an even higher level with his spread offense thanks to the physical blocking he got from all five spots up front -- including the somewhat surprising work done by Fragel sealing the edge or pancaking linebackers at the second level. Ohio State averaged 191 yards per game on the ground the season before Meyer arrived, and despite his spread reputation, he backed up his repeated claims that a rushing attack really makes it hum by bumping that number up to 242 behind Fragel and his big buddies.
Job description: The Buckeyes will be returning four experienced starters on the line, so the new member is going to have plenty of assistance as he breaks into the rotation. With Corey Linsley and Jack Mewhort back, for example, Ohio State certainly isn't going to need somebody to come in and try to be a leader. What it will need is an athletic player capable of keeping Braxton Miller clean in the pocket and displaying enough mobility and strength to keep up with a rushing attack that will essentially return completely intact. The only thing missing is a right tackle, and the spotlight will be on the guy filling Fragel's big shoes.
Top candidates: The job was nearly Taylor Decker's in training camp, though the true freshman ultimately came up short in his tight battle with the veteran, physically-developed Fragel. The edge Decker did have back in August was that he's a natural lineman who was more technically sound as a blocker, and with another offseason to build his body, the future is bright for the rising sophomore heading into spring practice and a training camp where he's likely to be the clear favorite to join the first unit.
One to watch: The Buckeyes kept Kyle Dodson stashed away on the bench for a season after his high-profile recruitment and decision to sign with Meyer a year ago, but he'll have a chance to show he's ready to put his considerable athleticism and talent on display after being slowed by a shoulder surgery that set back his growth initially. Decker has a head start, of course, but a healthy and energized Dodson should at least be able to provide some depth up front.
4dJosh Moyer and Dan Murphy