COLUMBUS — Ohio State has talent across the board on offense. But that creates a problem — a good problem, but a problem nevertheless.
How do the Buckeyes determine who gets the ball and who is on the field? Ohio State coach Ryan Day and offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson have their work cut out for them, especially trying to figure out how to have at least six wide receivers and three tight ends all receive playing time.
“The tough deal is with the receiving core,” Wilson said. “You know Jameson [Williams] is coming on and some of the young freshmen, Jaxon [Smith-Njigba], Julian [Fleming], Gee [Scott] and those guys, we’re taking out really good players. I think it just gets in the flow of the game. I think these tight ends can flex out if we need them to. Jeremy [Ruckert], Luke [Farrell] and Jake [Hausmann] have all gotten to where they’re so fundamentally stout and strong, they’re quality at the line of scrimmage.
“I don’t think we need to force it.”
It’s time for the Buckeyes offense to get creative finding ways each playmaker can be on the field when they need to be. Ohio State is working on fine-tuning an offense that was nearly unstoppable last season. With the personnel on the roster this year, it could be even better.
“If we flex [tight ends] out, we can go big,” Wilson said. “But if we put those receivers out there, it’s about as collectively fast an athletic a group of receivers I’ve ever been around. As a tight ends coach, I like those tight ends playing and I don’t like when those fast guys come off.
“The trick, too, as we’re keeping everybody happy, is we just don’t get too much offense.”
Kevin Wilson can find new, creative ways to help the tight ends for the Buckeyes be impactful in one of the country’s best offenses. He and a few of the tight ends met with the media Friday to talk about their production and the offense at large, and Lettermen Row is breaking down What We Learned from those conversations.
Buckeyes still watching NFL film for tight ends
With virtual meetings and an altered offseason, the Buckeyes offense took some pointers — from the NFL. Wilson and his tight ends studied professional tight ends this offseason to see how they play, how quickly they play in the pass-game and in run-blocking. And they saw how effective tight ends can be in an offense.
“They started spring ball, we talked a lot, did a lot of studying of some NFL guys and we actually talked to a couple guys about how fast they play,” Wilson said.
Ohio State doesn’t throw the ball to its tight ends often. But when it does, the offense usually benefits from it. The Buckeyes tight ends talked about using NFL tape to find where they can be effective in the offense back in December. And it can’t be a coincidence it came up again Friday, just a month before the season starts.
Carries in Ohio State backfield could be split
After J.K. Dobbins left Ohio State for the NFL, the running back position was at a crossroads. And when Master Teague went down during the first spring practice of March, the running back job was officially up for grabs.
Now that Oklahoma graduate transfer Trey Sermon is on campus and gearing up for the season, he will have an impact. And with a healthy Teague back on the field, Ohio State now has a chance to split carries and keep its backs fresh.
“I think it’ll be a 50-50 ballpark as we start,” Wilson said.
Both guys are more than capable runners. And the guys behind them are working to earn carries, too. But the way Sermon and Teague have looked in practice leave plenty of room for optimism heading into October.
“It seems like they both really understand how to practice hard,” Jeremy Ruckert said. “Coming in, it must be tough to really understand and buy into the culture. It seems like Trey really hasn’t missed any steps with that. He comes in, he practices hard, he’s not really outspoken. He just comes in and does everything right. He looks like he’s really promising out there. He’s fast, he runs hard. He seems like he understands a lot. Same with Master. He’s very reliable. He’s a great guy. They just seem like they can be reliable, every-down guys.”
Jeremy Ruckert ready for big year
Jeremy Ruckert had his breakout moment last season in the Big Ten title game when he snagged a one-handed touchdown that changed the momentum when Ohio State needed it.
The task now is to build off that energy. As good as he looked late in the year last season, he’s only getting better. He is set for a huge season in the Buckeyes offense.
“I just want to keep improving as an all-around tight end,” Ruckert said. “I’ve gotten a lot stronger this offseason, so hopefully that’ll be put on display this year in my blocking in everything like that. I really just want to step up in all three aspects like that.”
During the pandemic, Ruckert built a squat rack and other weightlifting machines at home to stay in shape and ready for whenever the season came. His dedication could pay off in a big way this fall.
Cade Stover working through transition to Ohio State offense
Before the shutdown of spring practice, linebacker-turned-defensive lineman-turned-tight end Cade Stover began his transition to the offensive side of the ball. But the spring session was cut short and the Buckeyes were sent home until June. Stover missed 12 spring practices of reps from the tight end spot and nearly the entire summer of in-person training to be a tight end.
It hasn’t mattered. Stover is athletic and strong enough to make up for lost time. His progression is coming along.
“He’s doing great,” Hausmann said. “He’s a super athletic guy. He can go up and get the ball. Obviously it’s hard to switch positions, but I think he’s been doing a really great job. Obviously it’s not going to be perfect, but he’s as athletic of a guy as any tight end can be. He’s just physical and strong as you need him to be. He’s really good at the point of attack. He can go up and get the ball. He’s a fast guy.
“I think he’s been doing a great job so far.”
With the three talented tight ends ahead of Stover on the depth chart, he might not have many chances to have an offensive impact this season. But he’s working on becoming a better tight end, and he might be the tight end of the future at Ohio State.