Every year following Ohio State spring football we recap what happened position by position.
Who stepped up, who stepped back, what got fixed, and what didn’t?
With 12 of the 15 spring practices cancelled due to the pandemic, however, essentially nothing happened, nothing got fixed, nobody stepped up, and no questions got answered.
So since we can’t talk about which questions got answered, we will instead discuss which questions still remain.
Position by position.
We have already discussed the quarterbacks, the specialists, the cornerbacks, the receivers, the defensive ends, the running backs, the linebackers, the defensive tackles, the offensive line, the safeties, and now we finish it up with the Ohio State tight ends.
Has Cade Stover finally found a home?
In the little bit of spring that we got to see, Cade Stover jumped out in his first look as a tight end. After playing linebacker for the bulk of last season, and then moving to defensive end somewhere late in the year, he was expected to be part of the front four this year.
However, the need ended up being greater at tight end and he did not look out of place as a pass catcher. Stover was a great running back in high school and he showed no problem bringing that mentality back as a pass catcher.
He looked good in the spring, but it was mostly passing and as everyone knows, there’s much more to being an Ohio State tight end than catching the ball.
Is Jeremy Ruckert ready to be a playmaker?
Jeremy Ruckert opened the year with two touchdown catches against Florida Atlantic, but caught just two more scores in the next 13 games. One of those touchdowns, of course, was the one-handed grab in the Big Ten Championship Game, which gives just a glimpse of the athleticism that he’s working with.
Ruckert caught 14 passes for 142 yards last season, but is he ready to be more than just a 10-yard-per-catch guy? Can he be a mismatch weapon for the Buckeyes? Given OSU’s versatility on defense, it would have been nice to see what Ruckert could do during the spring.
Ohio State has more playmakers available in the slot this year than they did the year before, which means snaps are going to become more difficult for Ruckert. If he makes plays, however, then he’ll have nothing to worry about.
Is this the year of the tight end?
In a word, of course this is the year of the tight end for the Buckeyes! What kind of question is that?
In all seriousness, though, the answer to this question (in relative terms) relies as much on how the tight ends perform as it does OSU’s slot receivers.
The Buckeyes played two tight ends so much last year because they only had one slot receiver that they felt comfortable with. If that number is more than one this year, then expect tight end snaps to drop a bit.
We already know Ohio State has more than one tight end that can play at a time and they are versatile enough to mix and match. Luke Farrell is one of the best tight ends in the Big Ten and Jeremy Ruckert may throw his hat into that ring this year as well.
Those two are proven, but how much the both of them play together will be dictated by the advancement of young slot receivers like Jaelen Gill, Jaxon Smith-Njiba, and Mookie Cooper, as well as the possible return of sixth-year senior CJ Saunders.
Sophomore Garrett Wilson should be a monster in the slot, but when he needs a break, will it be another receiver or a tight end who gives him that break?