Stoneburner’s Return Could Make TE Focal Point in 2012
By Brandon Castel
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jake Stoneburner is coming back, and it didn’t take much convincing from new Ohio State coach Urban Meyer.
On the final day before Meyer’s imposed Twitter ban goes into effect, Stoneburner used one of his last Tweets to make an important announcement about his future.
“Twitter=Done. Me=back for senior year, leading this team, and shocking the world!! #gobucks #12-0,” Stoneburner posted Tuesday afternoon following a 7 a.m. meeting with Meyer and his new coaching staff.
Stoneburner, a redshirt junior out of Dublin Coffman, seemed to be leaning that way after Ohio State’s 24-17 loss to Florida in the Gator Bowl. He did admit, however, that the NCAA’s postseason ban for next season caught him off-guard.
“I’m not 100 percent sure,” Stoneburner said Monday when asked about his return outside Ohio State’s locker room at EverBank Field in Jacksonville.
“The bowl ban is just one extra game. It’s just one extra game and coach Meyer will have us ready no matter what with 12 games next year.”
The 6-5, 245-pound tight end led the Buckeyes with seven touchdown catches during the regular season, but did not play in the bowl game because of an injury to his left knee. Stoneburner said he hurt it during the Michigan game and underwent arthroscopic knee surgery right after the regular season.
“I’m bummed out I only got to play in two bowl games because of this year and next year,” Stoneburner said.
“The bowl game wouldn’t really effect it, but it’s a little upsetting.”
Stoneburner has been good, but not great, during his career at Ohio State. That is something that could change very quickly under Meyer and the Buckeyes’ new offensive coordinator, Tom Herman.
“What I do every week is I’ll take the top 10 playmakers on the team — I will personally; that’s my job — and I will say, ‘This guy needs to touch the ball seven times, 12 times,’ ” Meyer said last month.
“You know Percy Harvin? Fifteen times, 18 times. Aaron Hernandez happened to be that talented. So I’m not worried about the position, I’m worried about the player.”
That is good news for Stoneburner, who has already been identified as a player Meyer likes, both during his time as a broadcaster for ESPN and in his brief tenure as the head coach at Ohio State.
Meyer and Herman have also proven to be big fans of the tight end, when it is the right guy playing the position.
“First thing, it’s who the tight end is,” Meyer said. “If he’s not a good player he will not get the ball.”
Meyer’s offense at Florida would support that notion. When he had Hernandez, now of the premier tight ends in the National Football League, Meyer made sure his guy got the football.
In three seasons at Florida, Hernandez had 12 touchdown catches, including five in both 2008 and 2009. In ’08, he had two touchdown catches in a win over Florida State and five catches in the BCS National Championship win over Oklahoma.
The next season, Hernandez led the Gators with 68 catches for 850 yards on his way to winning the John Mackey Award, given annually to the top tight end in football since the year 2000.
“So it’s more about personnel, not just (being) the tight end,” Meyer said.
When Herman was the coordinator at Rice, his tight end was one of the best in the country. In 2009, James Casey—now with the Houston Texans—caught 111 passes for more than 1,300 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Herman also had success with his tight ends at Iowa State, where he was before Meyer brought him to help run the offense in Columbus. That doesn’t mean they already have plans to make Stoneburner the next Aaron Hernandez, although the potential is certainly there.
“I really like his ability,” Meyer said.
“Can he improve? If you sat with Jake, he’d say, ‘Yeah, I have to really improve.’ So before he’s one of those top five guys — the top five guys touch the ball a lot.”
The Buckeyes may not have had five playmakers on offense in 2011, but Meyer has done more with less in the past. He has a bright young quarterback and a stable of young running backs. Now all he needs is his All-American tight end.
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