COLUMBUS, Ohio — Winning a job on the field might be the easy part for Taylor Decker.
Surviving the hazing process of becoming a sophomore starter for an Ohio State offensive line stocked with four seniors may be the bigger hurdle the talented right tackle will face during training camp this month.
There are the nicknames Decker can’t reveal publicly. And then there are jokes about his long hair and questions about whether he’s got the right sense of humor to fit in with the veterans. And as guard Andrew Norwell reminded him with one raucous wrestling match outside the locker room during the offseason, there are also some physical tests, including those off the field, that must be passed during the rite of passage into the starting lineup.
“It’s like the little brother thing for us,” left tackle Jack Mewhort said. “He definitely gets his fair share of garbage from the older guys.
“He’s kind of like the baby brother. He’s bigger than all of us, but he’s the baby — but we love him.”
The wise cracks and good-natured ribbing actually help make it clear that Decker is welcomed with open arms by the closest position group on the roster.
The Buckeyes bring back more experience and skill than just about any unit in the country up front, though the one hole at right tackle after the graduation of Reid Fragel left some uncertainty and caused some hand-wringing during spring practice for offensive line coach Ed Warinner.
Decker was always the heir apparent for the job after pushing Fragel for it during training camp a year ago as a true freshman, but by his own admission, he didn’t make a convincing enough case when practice ended in April to lock down that role heading into the summer. But as he integrated himself with the tight-knit veterans while continuing to develop a 6-foot-7, 315-pound frame that makes the little brother the tallest and stoutest of the bunch, Decker steadily won over the seniors in building his case as the final piece of the puzzle.
And while still not definitively a starter or finished product, the Buckeyes are already seeing how some of the tests Decker faced over the summer are paying off in August.
Continue reading this article at ESPN: ‘Little brother’ Decker makes impression