Photo Credit: The Ohio State University
If there was ever an important recruit for Urban Meyer to grab in his first year as head coach at Ohio State, Taylor Decker was arguably the most needed. In hindsight, the offensive line has since become a position of incredible need moving forward. Not only that, Decker was an in-state talent that was heading to the forbidden grounds of South Bend. Meyer had a stated goal when he came here of treating the state of Ohio as his first priority and did not want to start a trend of top-tier Buckeye state players heading out of town. The recruitment of Taylor Decker is a perfect microcosm of that plan being put into action.
Decker was a offensive line prospect out of Vandalia Butler High School near Dayton, posting a stellar career for the Aviators as a three year starter at tackle and a first-team all-Ohio performer his Senior season. Not only did he excel on the field, but he more than held his own between the nets on the basketball squad as well. Needless to say, an offensive tackle that is 6’8’’ and 300 pounds that is athletic enough to garner D1 college interest in basketball is very appealing. Not only does this show an incredible array of impressive footwork, but an innate ability to flat out move that few his size have.
Coming out of high school, Decker was a member of the Rivals top 250 prospects in the nation and was ranked as high as the 77th player in the country overall by Scout. Those numbers are no laughing matter, which made his March 2011 commitment to Notre Dame sting many Buckeye fans where it hurts. Moreover, Decker mentioned that he was indeed an Ohio State fan but never received the type of interest he would have relished from the former staff.
Enter Urban F. Meyer.
The main reasons Decker wanted to head to the grotto in South Bend were easy, Ed Warinner and Tim Hinton. Warinner was the offensive line coach and Tim Hinton was his primary recruiter. He formed a tremendous relationship with both men, causing him to pledge his allegiance to the Domers before his Junior year of high school was over.
Flash ahead to January 2012, and Decker had seen Meyer take both Warinner and Hinton away from the green meadows of Celtic land and bring them back to their homes, the state of Ohio. Ironically enough (or not so ironic), that was exactly where Decker hailed from. It didn’t take long for him to switch his pledge to the good guys, citing the two coaches’ influence as a main reason for change. As before, this was a perfect microcosm of coach Meyer’s promise of making in-state talent a priority. He backed that up by putting kids in Ohio first, but more importantly by putting coaches with Ohio ties in the right place, right beside him. With his national prowess and success, it would be easy for Meyer to focus mainly on national recruiting, and has definitely stepped that aspect up significantly compared to Jim Tressel. But he knows, as all of us know, Ohio is our bread and butter.
So honestly, we have to give Hinton and Warinner most of the credit on this one.
Flash forward to March 2012, exactly one year after Decker initially committed to the Irish and two months after his OSU commitment, and he had already graduated early from Butler to participate in spring drills. Ask any college coach and they will tell you, guys who graduate early have a HUGE advantage compared to everyone else. Not only are they more comfortable with the playbook come summer, they are more comfortable with EVERYTHING else. The student life, the homework, the independence, the workload, the coaching, everything.
Given this knowledge, it was no secret last season that we found ourselves hearing rumblings that Decker might actually start as a true Freshman at right tackle.
At first this only caused angst among Buckeye fans, initially sending the message that there was no one good enough to beat out a true Freshman at the position. But after hearing the praise placed on Decker by the coaches, and learning he was the first offensive player to lose that stigmatic ‘black stripe’ from his helmet, that angst among fans turned to reverencef at what this young guy was doing.
Eventually Reid Fragel won the spot, but that doesn’t diminish the impression Decker left on the staff, the locker room and Buckeye Nation as a whole. He did get to play in every game last season, mostly on special teams, but took plenty of snaps on the line. His role increased in the latter part of the year, specifically in the Illinois game with his most snaps of the year on offense coming in that blowout in the Shoe.
Mainly mentioned by coaches was his cerebral ability to know exactly where he needs to be and being able to retain a lot of information at once. Not a bad skill in a Meyer and Tom Herman offense.
All this said, it seemed that Decker should walk in to that spot at right tackle in 2013. Unfortunately for him, and much to the chagrin of Meyer, that has not happened. Challenging him is Chase Farris, a Sophomore as well that initially started as a defensive player.
With Decker’s athleticism and intelligence, it seems to be only a matter of time before he is pancaking poor bystanders across from him. Hopefully that happens soon, as summer camp is rapidly approaching and the coaches are looking to solidify their starters on the line. There are four we know of, and the fifth to be determined. How this battle plays out could very well be the hinge of the OSU offense becoming very great or becoming truly epic. Time will tell, and Decker surely has as good of a shot as anyone to make a huge impact this fall.