“I think Jeremy Ruckert might be the best tight end prospect that I’ve ever seen and recruited. His skill set is ridiculous. Now it’s a question of getting him ready to play.”
Those were the words of former Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer 14 months ago, and the process of getting Ruckert ready to play has been ongoing since the freshman arrived last year.
Tauted as arguably the best pass-catching tight end in the 2018 recruiting class, Ruckert caught just one pass as a true freshman for the Buckeyes last season. He played in 12 of Ohio State’s 14 games, eventually growing into a regular role as an extra tight end in heavy offensive sets.
For a player not known for his blocking when he arrived, it was an impressive feat to now be brought in for that exact purpose.
“I came here as mostly a receiver,” Ruckert said recently. “I’ve focused on blocking a lot and I have gotten better. Being physically and mentally tough, everything about it, there is a toughness that is needed. If you play at Ohio State and you play in the Big Ten, you’ve got to be tough, so that was the main thing I tried to focus on. I just go in there and throw my body around.”
At 6-foot-6 and 240 pounds, there was a lot of body to throw around. Every day, he tried to show his coaches that he was retaining everything that was being taught.
“I’ve learned a lot,” he said. “Mostly it’s about toughness. They really stress that. You can’t play scared here, so I came in just ready to roll.”
As a tight end, Ruckert was tasked with blocking defensive ends and linebackers. As the season wore on, he was asked to do it more and more because he was getting better and better at it. The confidence his coaches had in him to get the job done grew every week.
No, he didn’t make a mark as a pass catcher, but that’s going to be impossible for the No. 3 tight end on any team. What he did do, however, was the most important thing for any true freshman.
“I think the biggest thing for any freshman is to find your role,” he said. “Coming in everybody has their own mindset of what they want to do and how everything goes, but you don’t have control of that. The coaches have control of that. You have to control what is in your hands. So every time they tell me to go out there, I try to flip the switch and go out there and play like a wild animal.
“I just try to give everything I’ve got for the few plays that I’m in because you don’t get many. Especially nowadays with the rotation, even if you are the starter, you get 50 plays per game, so you’ve got to make the most out of every single one. I’ve definitely learned a lot from the older guys about making every play count and everybody has their own role.”
While some may measure performance by statistics, Ruckert measures his freshman season by how far he has come since he arrived.
“There’s always room for improvement,” he said. “But a year ago today, thinking that I’d be a complete tight end that was coming across the line of scrimmage and knocking people around, I wouldn’t think that was possible.”
You can ask anybody at Ohio State and they will tell you how bright the future is for Jeremy Ruckert. Even though all four scholarship tight ends return from last season, including co-starters Luke Farrell and Rashod Berry, the expectation is that Ruckert will see more action in 2019.
Ruckert himself, however, knows that if that’s going to happen, his hard work is going to have to continue.
“Nothing is given,” he said. “You have to earn everything.”