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Friday, November 21, 2014

Ohio State Football: Taylor Decker



Great article from the Columbus Dispatch on Ohio State's Taylor Decker


Taylor Decker was still wearing his sweat-soaked uniform in the quiet Ohio State locker room after the Orange Bowl loss to Clemson when Jack Mewhort approached him.

Decker was a sophomore playing right tackle with four multi-year senior starters on Ohio State’s rock of an offensive line in 2013. Three of those players – left tackle Mewhort, center Corey Linsley and left guard Andrew Norwell -- have become rookie starters in the NFL. 

They cared deeply about the legacy they’d built, and Mewhort had serious words for the guy entrusted to carry it on.

“When I got in the locker room,” Decker recalled, “he looked at me and said, ‘It’s your unit now. We’re done. We’re graduating and going on to the next chapter of our career or life. You have to keep that standard up.’ ”

In an instant, Decker switched from little brother to leader by default. It is a role the junior has embraced. Despite some shaky moments early this season, the rebuilt line has again developed into the foundation of the Ohio State offense. Decker is a big reason for that, both with his play and leadership.

“He was obviously the youngest of the group last year and quite honestly the least productive,” Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said. “Now he’s just a much better player (and) a great leader. I can’t say enough about how much he’s grown in two years.

“He’s a model citizen for our team and program and a guy who gives us energy every day at practice.”
  *  *  *

The little-brother role at Ohio State came naturally to Decker. The 21-year-old is the youngest of five kids in Ron and Sheila Decker’s family. He has twin sisters who are 38 and two brothers, Adam, 27, and Justin, 24.

Growing up in the Dayton suburb of Vandalia, his brothers didn’t exactly take it easy on Decker.

“It was full-throttle on him all the time,” said Justin, who serves in the Navy and is stationed in San Diego. “Adam and I kind of teamed up on him a little bit. He was the youngest brother. We gave him a hard time. Tough love, you know.”

Let Taylor win a game? No chance. Everything he got, he earned.

“I remember playing GI Joes and it would work out that it would be them and their friends against me,” Taylor said with a chuckle. “It didn’t make sense to me at the time, and it still doesn’t. As a baby brother, you have to get beat up on a little bit.”

But the brothers were as close as they were competitive, and Taylor wanted to follow in their footsteps. Ron played football for two years at Army, and Adam and Justin played in high school. But Taylor, who loved basketball, wasn’t crazy about playing offensive line.

“But my brother told me if I didn’t play football, I was kind of a sissy,” Taylor said. “I thought, OK, that’s my older brother, I’m going to play football.”

He wears No. 68 because that was Justin’s number for Vandalia Butler High School. Back injuries prevented Justin from pursuing a college career.

“I wanted to be just like him,” Decker said.

He originally committed to play for Notre Dame, but switched when Irish coaches Ed Warinner and Tim Hinton joined the newly hired Meyer’s staff. 

After spending his freshman year as a backup, Decker replaced the graduated Reid Fragel at right tackle. Just like his brothers, his older linemates cut him no slack, particularly Mewhort.

“Being the other tackle, Jack always was the one pushing him in the weight room,” said Linsley, now with the Green Bay Packers. “I can vividly remember a tug-of-war contest. Jack was pulling on the rope and shoving Taylor into the ground. I still remember it because I felt like that was day Taylor grew up and matured a lot.”

Decker understood the treatment.

“There’s a standard around here,” he said. “They wouldn’t settle for anything less than that. It’s not always fun. It’s not always fun to hear when you’re doing a drill that you’re not doing it right.

“Looking back on it, I’m thankful that they were hard on me and pushed me and coach (Warinner) pushed me and still pushes me. That’s the only way to get the most out of a player. You have to be taken 100 percent out of your comfort zone. They were encouraging when they needed to be, and they were hard when they needed to be.”

Then, as soon as the Orange Bowl was over, Decker took over that role. Just two days after that game, Decker and current right guard Pat Elflein went to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center weight room to begin preparations for 2014. 

Truth be told, they sneaked in. Head strength coach Mickey Marotti ordered players to take some time off to let their bodies heal after the long season and he chided Decker for not adhering to that.

But to Decker, there was no time to spare. He knew that outsiders doubted that Ohio State could withstand the loss of the four senior linemen. He believed that their replacements were talented enough to do that. He also knew how hard they’d have to work.

“I remember saying to the guys that everyone’s talking about how much we lost, but they don’t realize what we have here,” Decker said. “I told them to do everything you can to get the most out of every drill and do extra work.”

Even Decker had to make a major adjustment, flipping from right tackle to left tackle. But the 6-foot-7, 315-pounder has settled in nicely.

“Taylor is unbelievably athletic and has all the tools in the world,” Linsley said. “It was just a matter of getting that tenacious streak in him. Then I saw him toss a linebacker like 5 yards out of the end zone in the Penn State game. That told me how much he’s grown up. Now he’s got a mean streak.”

Asked if Decker was a future NFL player, Linsley replied, “Without a doubt.”

Away from football, Decker is more cerebral and thoughtful. He has a 3.0 grade point average as an animal-sciences major. Decker interned last summer at the Columbus Zoo.

He spoke with excitement of working with the zoo’s emeritus director Jack Hanna in a presentation on Decker’s first day and carrying a wallaby and snow leopard in front of an auditorium with 100 people.

“I worked with really great people,” Decker said. “I really enjoyed that.”

Ron Decker described his son as humble, unchanged by his status as a football player.

“He’s one of those gentle giants,” he said. “What you see on the football field is, to a degree, a contrast with who he is outside of football.”

The Buckeyes can clinch the Big Ten East division with a win against Indiana this week. It’d be a huge step on a gratifying journey for Decker, the little brother all grown up.

“I’ve wanted to play here my whole life,” he said. “But I don’t want to just be here and be on the team. I want to make an impact. For the offensive line to be playing so well, it’s an awesome feeling.”

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Ohio State vs Indiana



Ohio State vs Indiana
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- - Urban Meyer continues to dig in his heels whenever he's asked about anything other than the task at hand.

Picks & Odds

IND
2%
23
OH ST
98%
1215
  • OH ST
  • -34.5
  • O/U:
  • 65.5
  • IND
  • +8500
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Such as when he faced a question on Monday about whether his seventh-ranked Buckeyes are one of the top four teams in the country - in other words, playoff-worthy.
"Not right now, no. No, I don't, because I don't want to make ignorant comments. I just don't know," said Meyer, whose team jumped two spots to No. 6 in Tuesday's College Football Playoff rankings.
"I'd make the comment that we're one win away from representing the East in the Big Ten championship game, because I do know that."
In his 13th year as a head coach, Meyer is skipping bold predictions. No embroidery about how great his team is and how it deserves to be ahead of Teams A and B in the CFP rankings.
Instead, he switches the conversation from what might be in six weeks to what will be this week.
The Buckeyes (9-1, 6-0) happily return home Saturday from a big two-game road swing to host Indiana (3-7, 0-6). Should they win - and they're favored by six touchdowns - they'll punch their ticket for the Big Ten title game for the second year in a row.
That really resonates for senior linebacker Curtis Grant, who has been on teams that despite winning a school-record 24 consecutive games at one point, and a current Big Ten record of 22 regular-season conference wins in a row, haven't captured a championship.
"Like I tell (teammates), we haven't won anything yet here," he said.
The Buckeyes strung together 24 wins in a row at the start of Meyer's tenure, then lost 34-24 to Michigan State in last year's Big Ten title game before falling 40-35 to Clemson in the Orange Bowl.
The loss to the Spartans for the conference title - and getting back to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis this year - provided incentive during the long hours of offseason conditioning last winter, spring workouts and August camp in 90-degree heat.
"That's been the ultimate goal, the No. 1 goal - the thing we had to do was get back there and win a championship," receivers coach Zach Smith said. "That's all we really talked about. There was no greater goal, nothing beyond that talked about, and that's been what our sights have been set on since day one, pretty much every day."
Grant said he's never forgotten what the Buckeyes missed - championship rings, the last BCS title game, respect, memories.
"It hurt just to lose all of that, especially coming off 24-0," he said. "We haven't won anything, so let's keep moving forward."
Now Indiana, saddled with a five-game skid and headed nowhere, stands in the way of Ohio State returning for another chance to collect the Big Ten's biggest trophy.
"Everything we did was to get another shot at the Big Ten championship. Everything," Meyer said. "And that's at the doorstep. I imagine that's why (the players) were pretty juiced up (Sunday) for practice."
Beyond the Indiana game, of course, lies the annual rivalry showdown with Michigan, also at Ohio Stadium. That will undoubtedly provide even more energy and motivation.
The Buckeyes sidestepped a setback with a resilient performance last Saturday in cold and snowy Minnesota, beating the gritty Gophers 31-24.
The one-touchdown margin won't stand out on a list of scores, considering Ohio State was a 12-point favorite and has lost only twice to Minnesota since 1966. But the Buckeyes were adamant afterward about the quality of this Big Ten win.
"I challenge any team in the country that wants to go ahead and schedule this one in November," Meyer said.
Freshman J.T. Barrett kept the ball on a third-and-1 read-option play in the first quarter and burst into a wide-open secondary for an 86-yard run, the longest ever by an Ohio State quarterback. He threw an interception and Jalin Marshall lost two fumbles, leading to 21 points for Minnesota, but the Buckeyes did plenty more right on an afternoon when it would have been easy for a lot to go wrong.
"Kind of rough, especially in that first half. Definitely got better in the second half," Barrett said.
Barrett threw three touchdowns, ran for another score and finished with 189 rushing yards, one of three of Braxton Miller's records he broke. Barrett completed 15 of 25 passes for 200 yards in another stellar showing filling in for the injured Miller.
"I had no idea that this is who J.T. Barrett is," Meyer said. "Very clear picture of who he is now."
Indiana's Tevin Coleman is coming off quite a performance of his own with a career-high 307 rushing yards last Saturday, but the Hoosiers lost 45-23 at Rutgers.
Coleman ranks second nationally with 1,678 rushing yards behind Wisconsin star Melvin Gordon's 1,909, and is 127 shy of Vaughn Dunbar's single-season school record from 1991.
The Hoosiers have lost 18 in a row to Ohio State since winning in Bloomington in 1988, a year after they ended a 23-game losing streak in the series by winning at Columbus.

Monday, November 10, 2014

2014 November 10th College Football Rankings

College Football Playoff Rankings
RKTEAMRECORD
1Mississippi State8-0
2Florida State8-0
3Auburn7-1
4Oregon8-1
5Alabama7-1
6TCU7-1
7Kansas State7-1
8Michigan State7-1
9Arizona State7-1
10Notre Dame7-1
11Ole Miss7-2
12Baylor7-1
13Nebraska8-1
14Ohio State7-1
15Oklahoma6-2
16LSU7-2
17Utah6-2
18UCLA7-2
19Arizona6-2
20Georgia6-2
21Clemson6-2
22Duke7-1
23West Virginia6-3
24Georgia Tech7-2
25Wisconsin6-2
AP Top 25
RKTEAMRECORDPTS
1Mississippi State (48)9-01488
2Florida State (12)9-01446
3Oregon9-11334
4Alabama8-11326
5TCU8-11273
6Baylor8-11193
7Arizona State8-11142
8Ohio State8-11086
9Auburn7-2981
10Ole Miss8-2948
11Nebraska8-1830
12Michigan State7-2782
13Kansas State7-2742
14UCLA8-2691
15Notre Dame7-2630
16Georgia7-2622
17Arizona7-2471
18Clemson7-2457
19Duke8-1431
20LSU7-3429
21Marshall9-0297
22Wisconsin7-2225
23Colorado State9-1128
24Georgia Tech8-2127
25Utah6-387
USA Today Poll
RKTEAMRECORDPTS
1Mississippi State (41)9-01528
2Florida State (20)9-01496
3Alabama8-11389
4Oregon (1)9-11382
5TCU8-11297
6Baylor8-11223
7Ohio State8-11148
8Arizona State8-11146
9Auburn7-2962
10Ole Miss8-2944
11Nebraska8-1925
12Michigan State7-2865
13Kansas State7-2738
14Georgia7-2693
15UCLA8-2662
16Notre Dame7-2654
17Clemson7-2500
18Arizona7-2487
19Duke8-1466
20LSU7-3371
21Marshall9-0285
22Wisconsin7-2265
23Georgia Tech8-2142
24Oklahoma6-3135
25Colorado State9-1118
ESPN Power Rankings
RKTEAMRECORDPTS
1Mississippi State (10)9-0321
2Florida State (1)9-0305
3Oregon (2)9-1300
4TCU8-1279
5Alabama8-1278
6Baylor8-1252
7Arizona State8-1251
8Ohio State8-1244
9Auburn7-2205
10Ole Miss8-2186
11Michigan State7-2179
12Kansas State7-2161
13Nebraska8-1160
14UCLA8-2149
15Georgia7-2132
16Notre Dame7-2124
17Arizona7-2118
18LSU7-3105
19Clemson7-2104
20Duke8-188
21Wisconsin7-284
22Utah6-358
23Georgia Tech8-233
24Oklahoma6-325
25Marshall9-022