The speculation, debate and conversations about Ohio State never end, and Lettermen Row is always ready to dive into the discussions. All week long, senior writer Austin Ward will field topics on the Buckeyes submitted by readers and break down anything that’s on the minds of the Best Damn Fans in the Land. Have a question that needs to be tackled, like the one today on Jeremy Ruckert? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.
Do you think Jeremy Ruckert is a starter by the TCU game?
— Jeremy George (@Jeremy_George) August 3, 2018
Jeremy Ruckert is going to have his chances to make an impact at Ohio State, there’s no real doubt about that even after just a week of training camp. But will the touted freshman be able to claim a starting job with only a couple games under his belt? Consider me skeptical about that, and it’s possible that the nation’s most coveted tight end in the last recruiting cycle won’t be a true starter until late in the season — if at all.
Maybe that seems like an unnecessary splash of cold water to throw on expectations for a player with so much potential at a position that seemed to be one of need for the Buckeyes. But the reality is that Luke Farrell and Rashod Berry bring a lot to the table for that unit, and both are likely more equipped to handle some of the all-important blocking that Ohio State demands from its tight ends in the power-spread attack. The strength, experience and knowledge of the system gives those two guys a significant edge. And considering how much emphasis is placed on the ability to help clear holes for the ground game, that suggests Farrell and Berry would stay in line for more snaps than Ruckert.
Now, I fully expect Ohio State to find ways to use Ruckert’s size, athleticism and ability to create matchup problems as a target for the passing game. It would be foolish not to carve out a role for Ruckert that forces defenses to try to figure out how to slow down a a 6-foot-6, 240-pounder — particularly when the Buckeyes get in the red zone. But for Ruckert to really be able to step into the rotation and get a heavy volume of first-team snaps, it’s largely going to be decided by how quickly he can acclimate to the more physical part of the position.
Perhaps that will mean relying more frequently on packages with two tight ends, potentially freeing Ruckert up to focus on running routes in the short term. Or maybe he’ll leave camp having already proven that he’s a complete tight end. But don’t overlook the value of Farrell and Berry for the Buckeyes, because they aren’t going to give up their spots on the depth chart easily.
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