Talented Tight Ends Give Buckeyes Flexibility on Offense
By Patrick Murphy
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The 2012 Ohio State football team’s record was perfect, but the Buckeyes were far from a finished product on the field. The coaches’ goal in spring practice was to get the 2013 Buckeyes closer to that perfection mark than their predecessors.
One way to do this offensively is to find weapons at every position and make the opposition defend everyone. That wasn’t always the case for the Buckeyes last season, but tight ends coach Tim Hinton believes that making his position group more complete players will be a big benefit to Ohio State’s offense.
“I’ve gotta tell you, the trick of the day in coaching tight ends in the spread offense is we ask them to be very good in (all areas),” Hiinton said.
“We ask them to be able to run long routes, short routes, know all the different protection systems, and all the things we do with it.”
It’s a lot to ask from Jeff Heuerman, Nick Vannett and freshman Blake Thomas, but this staff has made its reputation on expecting a lot from their players.
“Really spring practice is about developing your weaknesses because the more you develop your weaknesses, the more complete you become as a player,” Hinton said.
“You know there’s that saying ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’,” said Hinton.
“They have to be master of all traits and they’ve got a lot of duties on a daily basis.”
While Hinton said this with a smile, he certainly wasn’t joking. This team needs tight ends that can do it all and the players understand that.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Third-year Buckeye Nick Vannett knows that it takes work not only in practice, but during the off season to get this group where it needs to be.
“It starts with when we have this time off,” he said, “catching balls, working on some blocking techniques, getting stronger in the weight room.”
While the tight end was not extensively utilized under the previous regime at Ohio State, Urban Meyer has a proven track record of not only using tight ends all over the field, but turning college players into NFL stars. The players can look at New England Patriots’ Aaron Hernandez as an example of what can happen if they put in the work.
We began to see what the tight end position could become for the Buckeyes towards the end of last season, as Vannett and Heuerman became a larger chunk of the offense as they adapted to their role.
“Just a year ago we were just getting used to the offense and we were young,” Vannett said.
“Now we’ve got a year under our belt in the system and me and Jeff are getting really comfortable with the offense and I think the quarterbacks are getting comfortable with us too.”
The comfort level between the quarterbacks and the tight ends cannot be understated.
“The guy who’s pulling the trigger has to have confidence in the guy he’s throwing it to,” Hinton said.
“When it comes down to time and I’ve got a really tight window, and I’ve got to put that ball in there, that quarterback better trust when he sticks it.”
That trust must also be there in pass protection, as the quarterback needs to know that his tight ends can make the blocks as well as make the catches. This was not perfect at times last year, and it resulted in Braxton Miller frequently having to scramble instead of being able to make his throw from the pocket.
If the Buckeyes no longer have to make substitutions for certain packages – because all the tight ends are able to play in any formation – it becomes more difficult for defenses to read and adjust and gives an edge to Miller and the rest of his offensive weapons.
This puts the Buckeyes one step closer to reaching perfection and helps them in search of another undefeated season.