COLUMBUS — Jeremy Ruckert knows what was expected of him when he signed with Ohio State out of high school.
The former 4-star recruit was the highest-rated player in New York and the No. 2 tight end in his class, so Ruckert had colossal expectations, even as a true freshman a year ago.
But for Ruckert, the transition from high school superstar to Ohio State tight end wasn’t easy. He played wide receiver in high school, but he was recruited to play elsewhere. While hype was building last year around whether Ruckert could be a dominant tight end for the Buckeyes, he was just learning how to play the position.
“Last year was huge for me,” Ruckert said. “Getting my feet wet in between the tackles and getting my head in there. It was good for me. I used to play all receiver in high school. My first day playing tight end was last summer camp.
“It was a really good transition last year, seeing and playing in games.”
With a year of learning how to play tight end at a high level behind him, Ruckert can now focus on becoming a better player at that position. Ruckert may still be relatively new to the position, but he’s already starting to turn heads.
Even teammates who he has been battling with for playing time have noticed Ruckert’s abilities since becoming comfortable with a new position.
“I feel like he’s elevated really fast for his age,” Rashod Berry said.
Ruckert, Berry and Luke Farrell combined for 30 catches last season. Tight ends were never a huge receiving feature of Urban Meyer’s offenses during his seven years at Ohio State, and that includes last year, although the trio of tight ends were still critical components of the game plan.
All three are back on Ryan Day’s roster for his first year as Ohio State’s head coach, and he has plans for them as well. Each has a different skill set to offer. Berry, a senior who started his career as a defensive tackle and switched midway through his career, is a blocker who can catch. Farrell, a junior, emerged last year as a versatile weapon.
Then there’s Ruckert, who isn’t shying away from a fight for time on the field during his second year.
“Ruckert has the most upside,” tight ends coach and co-offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said during the spring.
That’s high praise coming from Wilson, who has groomed tight ends and sent them to the NFL during his time at Oklahoma and Indiana.
Ruckert has shown his instinct as a former receiver in Ohio State’s spring practices. Coaches and players know his potential. His opportunities to earn playing time have dispersed from just in a tight end role. Ruckert lined up at H-back in the spring, trying to find ways to get on the field. The coaches are going to find a way to see him on the field this fall.
“We’re just trying something new and we’re putting a lot of stuff in,” Ruckert said. “I’m cool with it. I like it”
As he makes his transition from high school wide receiver to Ohio State tight end, Ruckert may end up platooning with Farrell and Berry, splitting reps.
That’s not a bad thing, though. The Buckeyes have built enough depth at that position to afford the chance to do so. One thing was made clear this spring: The youngest of the three, Ruckert, is going to be a weapon for Day and Wilson moving forward.
“We’re having a good spring right now,” Ruckert said. “Our group won best unit of the whole winter, so they’re trying to get us on the field as much as possible.”
Jeremy Ruckert is helping Ohio State learn to use its tight ends, just as he is learning to play there.