COLUMBUS — All Kevin Wilson wanted to do was watch Cade Stover play ball.
But the Ohio State offensive coordinator and tight ends coach wasn’t allowed to make the trip to Lexington to watch Stover dominate a high school basketball game. The defensive coaching staff knew Wilson would want Stover at tight end if he saw him play basketball.
“I was told when we recruited Cade that I was never allowed to go see him because the recruiters thought he could be a good tight end and if I walked into the building, it would be a bad deal,” Wilson said. “I was dying to watch him play high school basketball, and I was prohibited to do so.”
Wilson never did make that trip, but he ultimately has his wish now: Cade Stover is a tight end for the Buckeyes by way of a trade along the defensive line.
The transaction: Cade Stover from the defensive line to the tight end room for Cormontae Hamilton. A straight-up trade that could prove to be pivotal for the Buckeyes in the next couple of years.
“I think both of those guys have a chance to be really good players for us this year,” Buckeyes coach Ryan Day said. “We looked at their skill set and brought them and talked them through and suggested that we see a skill set in them that maybe they don’t see on their own. And we asked them what their input was. Both of them were excited about being presented with the new challenge.
“And so I think Cade, when you look at his skill set, his basketball background and his spatial awareness and things like that, his toughness, we think that he projects into being a really good tight end.”
Stover only had three practices in Wilson’s tight end room, but his presence was known. He caught passes from each Ohio State quarterback and did what Wilson thought he could do. He was fluid and smooth on the field. It looked natural, even just a few days into a position switch.
It’s what the Buckeyes envisioned when they moved Stover to the offensive side of the ball. And it’s what Stover believes will help him.
“It felt really good, it feels a lot more natural,” Stover said in March before the shutdown. “I think day by day, we’ll keep building on it, keep learning and keep getting better. I think in the long run, it’s a better fit for my body. Coach Day brought me in and we had an open conversation about it and what’s best, and I’m just looking to get on the field this year anywhere I can.”
That won’t be easy for Stover in the short-term. He has two NFL-caliber tight ends in front of him. Both Jeremy Ruckert and Luke Farrell are experienced and expected to be playmakers for the Buckeyes this season. But this year will provide a perfect situation for Stover to transition to offense and learn what it takes to be an Ohio State-level tight end.
And in the future, Stover could be the No. 1 option at the position. He certainly has the talent and athletic ability to do so.
“When you got him playing ball, you can tell he’s a natural football player, good basketball player,” Wilson said. “That guy has played a lot of ball. When we get out running around, he naturally finds the right place. He might look a little out of control or out of whack, and he’s doing it on the run, but you know he’s a good football player.
“I think it’s going to be a good move for him and a good move for us. Got a lot of work to do, but he’s going to be good.”