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 the tight ends? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.
Will they throw them the ball though?
— Jeff Svoboda (@JeffSvoboda) June 29, 2020
If Ohio State wants to build an offense around its tight ends, it certainly has more than enough talent to work with this season.
Luke Farrell is going to be an NFL player for a long time thanks to his frame, physical approach and reliability. Jeremy Ruckert has been tabbed for stardom as a receiving threat dating back to his high-school career. Jake Hausmann has enough versatility to be a fixture in the attack, and Cade Stover looks like he was created in a lab to become a standout at any position on the football field.
So, yes, the Buckeyes could get more production out of that unit, which might just be the strongest pound-for-pound group on the roster. But, no, Ohio State doesn’t really need more from catches from those guys to make the offense hum, because it’s already far and away the most prolific in the Big Ten and one of the most dynamic in the entire country.
“It’s still tough, though, because there’s a lot of those good guys outside in the progression,” offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said in spring camp. “I remember years ago when we were younger and I was working with Sean Payton, he’d say when I run a route: This guy is No. 1, this guy is No. 2 and this guy is No. 3 in the progression. So, it’s kind of like those tight ends have to show Coach [Ryan] Day and myself and the quarterbacks that they’re deserving of being No. 1 or No. 2. Because the more often you’re higher in the progression the way the call is made, [the more catches there will be]. We can get in a formation and they can be anywhere from the first read to the last read depending on the formation.
“So, who do you want to touch the ball?”
Wilson has never made it a secret that his philosophy involves ranking the most dangerous weapons on the field and then making an emphasis to get those players involved as much as possible. And considering how in sync he’s long been with Day, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Ohio State is continuing to embrace that approach — and continuing to get the skill players much more heavily involved with the football in their hands.
Now, could Ruckert’s unique skill set as a target allow him to force his way higher in the pecking order? Absolutely. But there isn’t an unlimited amount of snaps and touches to go around, and every throw to Ruckert is one that isn’t going to Chris Olave or Garrett Wilson. Every attempt Farrell’s way is a potential carry that Trey Sermon could have been turning into a touchdown behind the veteran tight end’s impressive blocking. Ohio State isn’t interested in simply spreading around touches for fun, and it’s not really looking for more variety when the core of the playbook is plenty effective all on its own.
The Buckeyes showed late last season that the tight ends have a role in the passing attack when Ruckert and Farrell were combining for a couple catches per game and finishing the season with six combined touchdowns. The bet here would be that the scoring total will increase as Fields get more comfortable and confident with both of those guys while Ohio State keeps implementing multiple tight-end sets in the red zone.
But when it comes to ramping up the receptions, that’s probably not going to happen. And the good news for the Buckeyes is they don’t need it to — and that the tight ends are already making a significant impact without many catches in the first place.
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