Daniel Chi / Asst. photo editor
Reid Fragel was a tight end in his first three seasons with the Ohio State football team, so it should come as no surprise that his transition to right tackle in his senior season has been a challenge.
Fragel said he finally felt comfortable, however, in the Buckeyes’ fourth game of the season, a 29-15 victory against the University of Alabama-Birmingham Saturday.
“I think so far that’s the best I’ve played at tackle,” Fragel said.
This week, however, Fragel prepares for what could be a much greater challenge, as the Buckeyes travel to East Lansing, Mich., to play the No. 20 Michigan State Spartans in their Big Ten opener at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday. Against the Spartans, Fragel will be lining up primarily against Spartans defensive end William Gholston, who was an All-Big Ten second-team selection in 2011.
“He’s got length,” Fragel said of Gholston. “I think that’s his main weapon, he likes to use his hands a lot and uses his reach. He’s quick off the ball, he’s got size, too, so it’ll be a good challenge for us.”
The MSU game will be a homecoming for Fragel as well. For the first time in his OSU career, Fragel will have the opportunity to play in East Lansing, Mich., which is located less than 100 miles from Fragel’s home town of Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich.
“That’s a game I’ve been looking forward to for a while,” Fragel said. “Obviously that’s my home state, so (I’ve) got some friends and family up there that will be at the game.”
Fragel caught 14 passes over the course of three years playing tight end, but he became a starter for the first time after converting to right tackle and winning a position battle over freshman Taylor Decker in fall camp.
Coach Urban Meyer listed Fragel as one of the offensive players who graded out as “champions” for his performance against UAB, and gave him praise during Monday’s press conference.
“(Fragel) played his best game as a Buckeye,” Meyer said. “Best game of the year, really best game of his career.”
Two of Fragel’s fellow starters on the OSU offense echoed Meyer’s sentiments.
“We’ve seen a lot of guys step up,” said senior fullback Zach Boren. “Reid Fragel played the best game I’ve ever seen him play since he’s been here this past year.”
Redshirt junior Corey Linsley said he felt similarly.
“It was an awesome showing for Reid,” Linsley said. “It was great because everybody knows on the team Reid has so much talent. He’s huge, and he’s got athleticism, more athleticism than anybody, and it was great to see him finally use all of his potential.”
Linsley said it was clear before Saturday’s game even started that Fragel came into the game with more energy than usual.
“Even before the game, I knew it was going to be his best game,” Linsley said.
Fragel said he “tried to be a little bit more energetic” on Saturday.
“I knew we had to come out a lot harder and play with a little more tempo,” Fragel said. “I kind of just tried to help out I guess, and provide some energy.”
Linsley said Fragel’s performance stood out during the highlight film that Meyer showed the entire team on Sunday.
“They showed that film yesterday of the offense cutting through the defense and it was basically just a Reid Fragel highlight show,” Linsley said. “He was smiling all day yesterday, and high-fiving everybody, it was great to see him finally do that.”
Fragel said it was a “good feeling” to be acknowledged for his positive plays in the UAB game, but also recognized that he has to continue to improve for the team’s upcoming game against the Spartans.
“I know there was some things that I watched aside from that film that I need to correct, get better and improve for Michigan State,” Fragel said. “Not to downplay UAB at all, but the athletes that Michigan State have, we’re going to need to execute a lot better.”
Linsley said playing against Gholston will be a great opportunity for Fragel to shine.
“I think that’s even a better opportunity to take what he learned from this game, and to just put it in action against a really good player,” Linsley said.