When it comes right down to it the Buckeyes have just one tight end who has any appreciable experience this spring. The good news is that the one player is Jeremy Ruckert who may just well be the best tight end in the nation this year. Ruckert emerged last season as a bona fide pass catching threat that can also do the dirty work as a blocking tight end. He was so well thought of after the season that a lot of people thought he would depart for the NFL but Ruckert suprised the nation when he announced he was returning to OSU for another season.
“I felt I had more I could give this program,” Ruckert said while meeting with reporters.
After Ruckert however the tight end depth chart shows little experience. There are guys, however, who have been waiting in the wings, players like converted linebacker Cade Stover, Mitch Rossi, Joe Royer and transfer Corey Rau.
Rau is a senior who is currently a walk on at OSU, but wasn’t always a walk on. He began his football playing career at SMU where he was not only a scholarship player but also an Academic All-Conference player in the AAC. Rau decided to transfer and whittled his transfer options down to Florida State and OSU. Those two schools offered spring entry and it was important to Rau to get enrolled somewhere and start learning the playbook and learning the system. When Florida State Head Coach Willie Taggert was fired the choice was easy to come to OSU even though the Buckeyes did not have a scholarship available for him. Rau describes himself as more of a hand-down-on-the-ground “Y” tight end rather than an H-back type. At 6-4, 240 the native Texan has the size it takes to control opposing defensive ends.
Rossi is a bit in the mold of Rau. He is a player who loves contact. Rossi said that a knock down block or “moving a grown man” on a play is as gratifying to him as making a catch. Between Rau and Rossi the Buckeyes have options for the tight end tough guy role.
Stover is a very interesting prospect at the position. As a former defensive player he likes contact, loves it actually, but he also played on the offensive side of the ball in high school where he was a running back. At 6-5, 235 he has the size to be a blocker but also has the athleticism to be a pass catching threat.
“I’m confortable with the ball in my hand,” said Stover. “I’m confortable with the ball in my hand in space.”
Stover is as physical as it gets as a blocking tight end and just has to work on his route running to be the kind of threat the Buckeyes would like to have at the position.
Royer was recruited at a pass-catching tight end, something he did a lot of in high school.
“I was flexed out a lot in high school,” said Royer.
What he didn’t do is a lot of blocking and that his something he has to work on. When he arrived at Ohio State he simply did not have the size and strength needed to be an effective blocking tight end.
“I remember lining up against Zach Harrison in practice and he drove me about 10 yards into the backfield,” said Royer.
It was an eye-opener for him and he has been working on getting bigger and stronger ever since. To that end, he is getting tips from Ruckert who also had to get bigger and stronger when he arrived at OSU.
“He helps me with my diet, things like that,” said Royer.