Ohio State had one of the best seasons in program history last year, and it came with the help of some young players. Now as the younger Buckeyes enter another year for the Buckeyes, they may be expected to take on expanded roles. Lettermen Row is breaking down a play from each key inexperienced Buckeye and how it can help provide a glimpse into each of their futures. Next up: Luke Farrell can be a key offensive weapon for Ohio State.
COLUMBUS — Luke Farrell is rarely mentioned when stars enter the conversation about the Ohio State offense.
That’s also what makes him so valuable. He doesn’t have to be mentioned, even though he never stops working. He finishes blocks and rarely makes mistakes. He catches the ball when it’s thrown his way. He’s a leader of the tight ends.
And that’s what will likely make him a valuable option in next year’s NFL Draft.
The rising senior tight end is far from a typical Ohio State draft prospect, but he doesn’t have to be. As both an extension of the offensive line that helped J.K. Dobbins rush for 2,003 yards last season and a valuable weapon for Justin Fields in the passing game, Farrell just takes what he gets in the offense.
“Always working on fundamentals,” Farrell said in March during the shortened spring practice schedule. “Need to play faster, that’s always a big thing for me and the tight ends. Our jobs on a lot of plays ask a lot from us. So we want to be able to play even faster while doing that.”
The fundamentals always seemed to be there for Farrell, who will lead a tight end unit that returns three contributors from last season and could yet again be one of the deepest on the roster. Even in his unit, though, rising junior tight end Jeremy Ruckert seems to be the name brought up when the inevitable annual conversation surrounds whether the Buckeyes will throw to the tight end more in the coming season.
Maybe that’s warranted. Ruckert has plenty of talent and was a huge pickup for the Buckeyes on the recruiting trail a couple years ago. If he can continue to develop with Farrell, he could be a scary Ohio State option.
Farrell can be, too. His 119 receiving yards and two touchdowns from a season ago won’t pop off any stat sheet, but the two touchdowns he scored were certainly impressive and resembled what a future-NFL tight end should be able to do.
“I think he is a better football player than he thinks he is,” tight ends coach Kevin Wilson said last season after Farrell’s touchdown against Michigan State. “I’d like to see him play with a lot more confidence, swagger, whatever way you look at, I’d like to see it. I think he’s capable of being a really complete tight end player. Not because you make one catch. I’m talking in the blocking game and his ability to finish some blocks.
“He’s doing a great job in pass [protection], does really well in perimeter. He’s our most consistent guy. I’m really challenging him. As good as he’s playing, I think he can be having that physical, dominating presence you want. I think he can really help us.”
And at this time next season, Farrell may be talked about with the same confidence from an NFL head coach or general manager.
The play: Ohio State wasn’t having its best offensive showing on Oct. 5 against Michigan State. Midway through the second quarter, the Buckeyes held onto just a three-point lead, but they had the ball deep in Spartans territory.
Justin Fields had plenty of time in the pocket, but his first and second options weren’t open or available. Farrell was.
Farrell not only caught the pass over the middle from Fields, but he then turned up field, absorbed blows from the Michigan State defenders and found the end zone for a crucial score that gave the Buckeyes a 10-point lead.
It was a huge moment for the Buckeyes in a night-game environment. And it was a huge moment for Farrell, who had only scored one touchdown in his Ohio State career before that catch.
As he continues to work toward an even better showing next season and a potential selection in the NFL Draft, it won’t be surprising if Farrell hauls in a few more impressive scores before his Ohio State career ends.