This week we cover what I like to call the “Tennessee Volunteers” position at Ohio State.
Every year, is the year where the breakout will happen. In reality, every year mediocrity is the name of the game.
Everyone wants the Buckeye tight ends to be involved. The talent has always been there. Guys like Ben Hartsock, Jake Ballard, Jake Stoneburner, Jeff Heuerman, and Nick Vannett have all manned this position at Ohio State over the last few years and each moved on to some sort of NFL career. Yet only Hartsock and Heuerman ever caught over 20 balls in a season at Ohio State.
This year is no different. Expectations are high for the tight end position. They have a returning starter and a new positional/offensive coach. Kyle nailed his breakdown of the tight end position and Tony discussed the playmaking ability of one of a number of returning starters on the Buckeye offense.
You never know if any position will break out, but the tight end position could be prime for a breakout of sorts. New offensive coordinator and tight ends coach Kevin Wilson has shown the ability to incorporate tight ends into his offense when he has a playmaker at the position. He has also shown the ability to send his tight end position into the normal Buckeye TE Zone when he doesn’t have what he considers a playmaker.
In 2008 while at Oklahoma, Wilson had Jermaine Gresham and fed him the ball over and over to the tune of 66 catches for 950 yards and 14 touchdowns. The very next year in 2009, he had someone named Trent Ratteree and banished him from the offense with a very Buckeye-like 11 catches for 152 yards and no touchdowns.
The same thing happened at Indiana while he was head coach. During the 2012 and 2013 seasons, he had Ohio native Ted Bolser who he trusted to be a big part of the offense. Over those two seasons, Bolser averaged 38 catches for 383 yards and about five touchdowns. After Bolser left, the tight end reigns were turned over to Anthony Corsaro and he was rewarded with five catches during the entire 2014 season.
Luckily for the fan base and Coach Wilson, the Buckeyes have a returning starter who has shown the ability to be the much-needed playmaker Ohio State has been missing since Rickey Dudley (for one very magical season). Let’s jump in and take a look at the 2017 version of the Buckeye tight ends.
Ohio State has the luxury of returning senior Marcus Baugh at the tight end position. In his first year as a starter in 2016, the 6’5” and 250-pounder hauled in 24 catches for 269 yards and two touchdowns. Not quite eye-opening numbers, but definitely a step in the right direction for the tight end position.
As you may or may not know, Baugh was a big-time get by Tim Hinton and Tom Herman in the 2013 class. He was a Top-100 player overall, a consensus four-star recruit, and was the 247 Composite No. 4 tight end overall. Even more of a big deal, the staff was able to pull him out of California while competing with schools like Arizona State, Florida, Miami, and UCLA to name a few.
After sitting behind Vannett and Heuerman for his first three seasons, Baugh was able to get his chance to prove how good he was in 2016. There were moments where Baugh shined and moments were he made fans simultaneously throw things at their televisions. Consistency will be the name of the game for Baugh in 2017, and I think he will have his best season. The moves below definitely show a caliber of athlete we have not seen at the Ohio State TE position in a while.
The tight end depth took a major blow for the 2017 season when A.J. Alexander went down for the season with a knee injury. While Alexander only had four catches last season, he showed the ability to be a very capable backup while playing in all 13 games. He received all of the first-team reps during the spring with Baugh sitting out with a minor injury.
Even with Alexander being lost for the season, all is not lost for the tight end position. The 2016 recruiting class was one for the ages for the tight end position. In that class, they brought in the 247 Composite Nos. 4, 7, and 11 tight end recruits in the country. All three of these guys redshirted last year, so this year at least one of them will have to step up and be a viable backup option.
The top options to backup Baugh appear to be either Luke Farrell or Jake Hausmann, who both already have the size to play and contribute. While Alexander was always considered a little undersized, Farrell comes into fall at 6’6” and 250 pounds, while Hausmann is at 6’4” and 252 pounds.
Both Farrell and Hausmann are Ohio natives and were both highly sought after recruits. This spring was huge for Farrell as he appeared to pass up Hausmann on the depth chart. As we’ve seen in the past, spring success does not necessarily translate to fall success. Farrell passing up Hausmann in the spring was kind of a side note, but with Alexander now out for the season, this will be a major competition to pay attention to.
The third member of the remarkable 2016 class was another Ohio product, redshirt freshman Kierre Hawkins. Much like Alexander, Hawkins (6’3”, 248 pounds) is more in the mold of the athletic mismatch nightmare rather than a dominant physical force like Farrell and Hausmann. Hawkins will struggle to see the field this year as he spent the spring focusing on playing school rather than football. Once he gets his academics in order, Hawkins could play his way into an Alexander type of role in a future season.
Since Alexander is out and Hawkins is dealing with non-football related issues, there has been talk of the staff moving Rashod Berry back to tight end. Berry was a three-star defensive end recruit in the 2015 class. The athletic freak started off his Ohio State career as a tight end before moving to defensive end last season. With the absolutely-loaded roster at defensive end, it would not surprise anyone if Berry was moved back to tight end and given a chance to compete for playing time. At 6’4” and 260 pounds, Berry definitely has the size to combine with his athleticism to possibly become a big-time threat.
PREDICTED DEPTH CHART
- Marcus Baugh
- Luke Farrell
- Jake Hausmann
I really think Baugh has the ability become a bigger part of the offense this year. The stats will still not be mind-blowing, but it will be the best season the Buckeyes have seen in a long time. With 35 catches, I predict Baugh will be second on the team in receptions this year. Farrell and Hausmann will show flashes and point to a big battle for the starting job next year after Baugh leaves.