Having Outgrown Linebacker, Cade Stover Ready for Life at Defensive End

Cade Stover Ohio State Buckeyes Defensive End

Sitting at a table among a long line of Ohio State coaches in the days leading up to the Fiesta Bowl, OSU linebackers coach Al Washington was finishing up some question-and-answering with one reporter when he was asked, “Hey Al, why weren’t you able to hold on to Cade Stover?”

“That’s a good question,” Washington said laughing. “Mother Nature, I suppose?”

Cade Stover came to Ohio State in 2019 as a big linebacker, checking in a year ago as a true freshman around 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds. Farm strong, he looked the part almost immediately.

Snaps were not all that available for a freshman linebacker on the 2019 squad, and so Stover and his two other linebacker classmates Craig Young and Tommy Eichenberg redshirted.

Come November, however, the decision was made that it was time to move Stover to defensive end and place him under Larry Johnson’s tutelage.

Even though it was never discussed in recruiting, the move ultimately came as a surprise to no one.

“No, it was straight linebacker in recruiting,” Stover said. “They talked about the Sam Hubbard comparisons and stuff, but inside I thought my body was just going to get too big to play linebacker. It’s not there yet, but it’s coming.”

Washington would probably argue about that latter part.

“He’s a huge, big kid, big athlete and it was maybe around halfway through the season, just looking at him like, ‘Golly!’ He was starting to fill out,” he said. “He’s got a bright future.”

Stover’s future is now his present, and the learning is ongoing.

“I love it. It’s fun. It’s a big learning curve, but I’m learning it slow,” Stover said.

“Coach J was the one who told me. The Sunday before the Rutgers game. He was like, ‘Hey, this week you’re going to be working with me and we’re going to see what you can do at defensive end.’ I went with him all week and then played in the game on Saturday and I’ve been there ever since.”

Stover spent much of the season on scout team, portraying the opponent rather than preparing for it. For some players, this can be a time of frustration, especially with a mid-season move.

For instance, imagine being a linebacker and practicing at linebacker for most of the season, and then one day being told you’re a defensive end and now you’re on scout team and here’s the starting Ohio State offensive line for you to deal with.

It could be too much for some.

“To be honest, you are getting the most quality reps going against the ones every day,” Stover said. “Learning there and getting ready for spring ball, that’s the biggest part right now.”

“I tell guys all the time, and I’ll actually watch the video tape of the guys on scout team, just to reinforce how important it is that you’re going against that offensive lineman,” Johnson said of scout team work. “So every time you win, you take note of it. Go as hard as you can, because that’s going to translate. So he’s done a great job of buying into that.”

There has been no resistance from Stover in any of this, and if there is resistance, there is no position move. Through this entire process, Stover has had an open mind and a eagerness to learn.

He’s also got the physical traits that Larry Johnson likes.

“Well, he’s got the length that we’re looking for,” he said. “He’s got the linebacker instincts. But he walked in with open mind, and we talked. It was a gradual process. We talked about it. I know we spent some time teaching him some pass rush moves, and then he says, ‘Coach, I think I can do this.’ So I think it’s just a matter of transition, to be honest, to get his hands on the ground. He’s getting more comfortable every day.

“I think the summer, and spring football, I think you’re going to see a big change. I can see a difference already in just a little bit of time of working with him.”

That comfort level hasn’t been easy to come by and won’t be found overnight. Now with the season over, Stover can really focus on the fundamentals to the level that Larry Johnson requires.

“It’s completely different,” Stover said. “You have to play a lot faster at defensive end. They’re on you right now, so you have to be fast. It’s getting better. At first it was ‘just go,’ but now I’m trying to get my reads down, what I’ve got to do if I get this or that. I’m really excited for spring. To really get my feet under me and get some action.”

And when he is finally on the field for the Buckeyes in 2020, what should fans expect to see?

“Relentless effort and a relentless finisher,” he said.

9 Responses

  1. Larry Johnson wanted him for a reason. I seriously don’t believe it was because he wasn’t fitting in at LB. Anyone who spent time watching Cade’s film knows the young man has off the charts athleticism. Maybe he was struggling with his weight, but, it’s sure that he has terrific base elements to be an effective edge rusher…………..if he can master the craft. No reason to think that he can’t do that and become the next Sam Hubbard type player.

    LJ chose Cade for a reason to mentor. It would be pretty silly to doubt his intentions or potential results.

    Best of fortune Cade.

  2. would of liked to see him given a shot at TE, don’t think defense is going to be his forte. has good hands, has good size, believe he could do a good job blocking and has decent speed for a TE.

  3. By 2021 season he may be ready to be a real contributor.

    I expect some portal activity at LB with two of those positions locked up for the next year or two (in the case of Werner). My guess is Pope & Mitchell say enough…leaving Browning, Gant, and some young guys.

  4. Thoughts on “lost in the numbers”:

    1-In watching 50+ years of tOSU ‘insiders’, coaches, and players, this is an apt characterization of our ‘vision’ of the interchangeable terms ‘philosophy, strategy, & tactics’. We ‘see’ by ‘numbers’, hence are lost in what numbers mean. Why? Because quality and chess are orders of magnitude greater than numbers and possessive assertions in describing and applying non-linear relationships.

    2-We excel at, and insist on, prejudging a person, a scheme, a relationship by numbers… and leaving out ‘the rest of the story’.

    3-Our best demonstration of our habitual ‘getting lost’ is when we judge another person or thing… before we assess our selves. In Johari Window terms, we assess from our Blind Spot and build our Facade, thus depriving our self of the means to describe, compare, & contrast in the Arena. Relationally, one cannot compare… absent a comparator and/or a comparison.

    …so we ‘could be monsters’, but… we ‘don’t look like it’ to our feelings. Judging by ‘doesn’t look like’ among a bunch of ‘looks like’ or ‘doesn’t look like’… ‘could be’ a… ‘mistake’? ;-{)}

    Perhaps we need to address “what comes first” before we rep ‘next man up’; or, write our next obit and call it ‘lessons learned”?

    1. I will have what you’re having.
      No lost in numbers means we have a lot of bodies at that position and I am not sure he will beat them out. He might get some playing time here and there but I am not sure he could be as dominant as he could potentially be at LB. He is athletic so putting on some good weight should not affect him too much. if they think he is too slow now for a LB and it can not be reversed, then there is no choice. we have not had great LBs here for a while and was hoping he would be one.

      1. a ‘wee’ bit, no doubt…. ;-{)}

        agree there are numbers of bodies at each position.

        IDK about you, but for me, who beats who is not an ‘out’, but a rep by rep contest.

        so, from the quicksands of undefined terms, criteria, and standards of measure, this “dominant” we often hear of… is “potentially”… ‘here and there’ in a condition ‘appropriately’ known as “whatever”?

        then there is the common amusement of adding ‘so’, or ‘honest’ to various phrases, as if this very avoidance of meaning… means something.

        this… is ‘good’ ? ‘Athletic’? ‘Affect too much’? ‘too slow’ [now]?….

        450 years ago Hamlet struggled with ‘to be or not to be’ in a classic human Tragedy, with lives and a kingdom at stake.

        I wonder if he too ‘hoped’ for… ‘lessons learned’…to ‘be there for him’

        Wee: thanks for your reply. I think we do have much common ground in what we are not ‘sure’ of, but little about our power of ‘choice’.

  5. I think it is a mistake. He will get lost in the numbers at DE while he could be a monster Linebacker here and in the NFL. He did not look like he fit at DE.

    1. He could easily be lost in the numbers at LB. The path to the field is probably a little more straightforward for him at DL than LB.

    2. Wee, if he could be a monster LB here and the NFL then he would be at LB.

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