Contribution of Tight Ends Not Always on the Stat Sheet
By Patrick Murphy
Ohio State was expected to have an explosive offense this season. Against Penn State, the Buckeyes unleashed their weapons.
The stat sheet showed that OSU finished with 686 total yards, 278 passing and 408 rushing. Braxton Miller threw for 252 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 68 yards and his first two rushing scores of the season.
Carlos Hyde added 147 yards and two more touchdowns and the Buckeyes had five players with more than 30 receiving yards and three different scorers through the air.
The only offensive position that didn’t put up big statistics was the tight end spot.
Photo by Dan Harker
After having five receptions last week, there were none for Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett against the Nittany Lions.
Tight ends continue to be a bit of a mystery at Ohio State. For years the position became more of an extension of the offensive line than a receiver in Columbus, but when Meyer took over that was expected to change.
In the preseason, the talk from the coaches hyped the tight ends, stating that this might be the best group in the country.
On the season however, Heuerman and Vannett have combined for only 19 catches for 176 yards and one touchdown.
Tight ends coach Tim Hinton believes the lack of statistical production is due to lack of opportunity and not the talent of the players.
“This week there is a couple of plays that we called that I thought going into the game the tight end would get the ball, we all thought the tight end would get the ball, Penn State didn't cooperate,” he said.
Defenses have to take away something and more often than not, that has been the tight ends.
Heuerman hasn’t allowed this to frustrate him; he has just realized the wealth the Buckeyes have.
“Jeff looked at me and he said, ‘Coach, we have a lot of good dudes on this team,’ that was his quote, you know, we got a lot of guys that can go,” Hinton told the media.
Just because they have not recorded big numbers individually does not mean Hinton has lost any confidence in his players.
“I'm pleased with how both of 'em are playing,” he said.
Both of them have shown enough to earn Hinton’s confidence.
“[Heuerman’s] a big, strong guy,” Hinton said. “He has the highest vertical jump, and I think the highest bench press out there which is really, really positive stuff.”
“Here is the deal. He's really, really, really good! I mean really good at what he does.”
One of the things he does is block, an area where receiving tight ends aren’t always effective.
“He does have a knack for it,” Hinton said of Heuerman’s protection. “He understands leverage.”
Vannett has also impressed despite his lack of catches.
“Nick is a tremendous pass receiving tight end,” Hinton said.
“I mean he has great hands, good ball skills, has the ability to run very well and his day is coming at Ohio State. He's going to have great days ahead of him.”
One issue for the redshirt sophomore was an injury he suffered early in the year. Hinton said that injury caused Vannett to miss “crucial time” and has taken him some time to get back.
Against Iowa, Vannett was used as a full back in order to help Hyde pick up important short yards showing the confidence the coaches have in his ability to block.
Those two players would love to fill up the stat book, but they are just looking to do what it takes to win. That mentality starts at the top with Hinton.
“Who cares who gets the credit,” he said. “If we are executing at 63 or 64 points, whatever that was on Saturday night, we're good, trust me, let's keep executing at that level.”
What he and his players realize is what matters at the end of the day is the scoreboard.
“The thing is you can't be selfish in this game,” he said. “This is the ultimate team game and you have to be very, very proud.”
Both players are willing to do the dirty work if it helps the team. If the ball comes their way, that is just a bonus.