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 about 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 about Ohio State and tight end Jeremy Ruckert? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.
Send TE's played a big role in the Super Bowl, why aren't they a bigger part of OSU's passing game?
— Jeff Ward (@Knowmadz) February 4, 2020
Every offseason includes the same conversation about the Ohio State tight ends, so there’s really no sense it putting it off even though spring ball is still a month away.
Why don’t the Buckeyes throw the football to the tight ends more? This year is going to be different, right?
Honestly, one of the most prolific scoring attacks in the country and easily the most efficient system in the Big Ten is working just fine without the tight ends catching a lot of passes. So, the safe bet would be that the Buckeyes aren’t going to make any sweeping changes just to try something new with that unit, which is already playing a key role with its blocking duties — and did collectively chip in 25 receptions for 294 yards and 5 touchdowns last season.
Now, that total may still seem relatively modest, but it’s important to keep in mind where the tight ends fit in the pecking order of weapons for Ohio State. There is a finite number of touches to go around in a game, and when putting together a plan for every week, the Buckeyes have to decide how they would ideally like to spread them around with a deep, talented collection of playmakers. In other words, if Ohio State wanted to throw to Jeremy Ruckert or Luke Farrell more last year, it had to weigh that against taking away carries from J.K. Dobbins and Justin Fields or catches for Chris Olave, K.J. Hill, Binjimen Victor, Austin Mack or Garrett Wilson.
On the list of available options, Ohio State was obviously comfortable with the way it allocated the touches and the amount of production it was rewarded with on the scoreboard.
But with a handful of those guys now gone, maybe a special talent like Ruckert could tweak the formula.
Ohio State will build around Olave and Wilson at receiver, but from there it’s largely going to be counting on a freaky freshman foursome to break into the rotation right away. With Dobbins heading off to the NFL, there’s also a bit more uncertainty about the tailback position and the amount of carries that need to be designated there. So, it’s certainly possible that Ruckert’s athleticism, ability to create mismatches and surging confidence as a well-rounded tight end might move him up that list of playmakers — and potentially allow him to put together an individual stat line like the unit produced as a whole a year ago.
Yes, both San Francisco and Kansas City offered reminders at the NFL level last year about the threat that position can pose. And as Ruckert has proved with a few of his impressive, highlight-reel grabs, he’s got the potential to be a major asset to the passing attack.
The question is whether or not the Buckeyes truly need the tight ends to be difference-makers in that area. And once again, that’s probably going to come down to where they stack up in relation to the other skill players on the Ohio State roster.
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