Ohio State's 2013 Pro Day: One Final Audition

By Kyle Rowland on March 8, 2013 at 3:30p
23 Comments
Ohio State's Pro Day at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center

Jake Stoneburner’s entire career has been built on potential. After an All-Ohio high school career as a wide receiver, he came to Ohio State with lofty expectations, pegged as the next great tight end. 

His career in scarlet and gray was solid but not spectacular. In four years, Stoneburner caught 53 passes for 714 yards. But nearly 25 percent of his receptions went for touchdowns.

As his NFL career approaches, the same hype is surrounding Stoneburner once again. Carrying a 6-foot-4, 245-pound frame with a wide receiver’s speed and agility, Stoneburner is an intriguing option for general managers.

“Why not Jake Stoneburner?” said 2006 Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith, who was Stoneburner’s quarterback at Ohio State’s Pro Day on Friday. Several dozen NFL personnel were at the event, including Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. 

Stoneburner was impressive in pass-catching drills, running crisp routes and flashing the speed that makes him such a highly regarded prospect. His 4.52 40 puts him near the top of the tight ends available for the draft.

“That’s not a dime a dozen at his position,” Smith said. “That’s what the game has changed into – the Jimmy Grahams, Vernon Davises and Jake Ballards. Hopefully he showed some guys he can really run.

“My main thing was showing that Jake Stoneburner could really run. He’s just like his last name, a Stoneburner.”

At the NFL Combine last month, Stoneburner referenced his “cat-like ability to run routes” as an advantage over more traditional blocking tight ends. His move to wide receiver last season is being hotly debated on whether it helped or hurt his draft stock.

For Stoneburner, it’s irrelevant. He said he would change nothing on the script from his four-year career.

Over the winter, Stoneburner was holed up in Scottsdale, Ariz. Lounging at the pool was not on the agenda, though. Instead, he worked day and night preparing for the combine. The quarterback he worked with is another headliner in Columbus: Tim Tebow.

“You learn a lot from guys like that,” Stoneburner said. “(Smith and Tebow’s) leadership skills are impeccable. The amount of confidence (Smith) had in me was almost more than myself. That really rubs off on you. I felt more comfortable with Troy out there.”

The comfortable surroundings of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center also put Stoneburner at ease. The combine was a different story. When he stepped up to do the 40 – the most important drill for a tight end – Stoneburner said the timer looked at him and uttered, “Here’s the money pit.”

It didn’t exactly calm his nerves. The end result that weekend in Indianapolis was satisfactory, though, Stoneburner said.

Now, it’s wait and see.

“I’ve always wanted to hear my name called (on draft day),” he said. “I feel like I’ve done enough the past two weeks. But you never know. I’ve seen a lot of people go undrafted and play a long time in the NFL.”

“I’ve always been a lineman at heart. It’s something that came natural.”

Former position mate Reid Fragel made the switch from tight end to offensive line last season with his sights set on the NFL. More than a year later, that decision appears to be paying off. In a month, you can add a literal connotation to that.

Fragel did 33 reps on the bench press at the combine and showed elite athleticism for a lineman. Because of that, the right tackle was advised not to do any drills based on numbers or timing at the Buckeyes’ Pro Day. The only drill he participated in was a series of blocking techniques. He went up against Columbus Brookhaven graduate and Glenville State product Mark Jackson.

“I just wanted to show my footwork, and I feel I showcased that,” Fragel said. “I’ve always been a lineman at heart. It’s something that came natural.”

He developed into Ohio State’s most dependable presence on a stout line during last year’s 12-0 season. It made an impact on head coach Urban Meyer, so much so that he said on Monday a Reid Fragel Award might be christened, going to the player that comes out of nowhere and becomes great.

His physique combined with impressive speed and strength make him a trendy sleeper pick for April. 

Fragel entered draft “silly season” projected as a fifth- or sixth-round pick. He has since vaulted to the second-to-fifth range.

“You hear a lot of things,” Fragel said. “I try not to worry about it too much. You take it with a grain of salt. You see what happens every year.”

What makes Fragel such an attractive project also works against him. Is he a one-year wonder, or can he progress even further, possibly into a franchise right tackle? 

“Obviously, with only one year of tape, (scouts) want to see me prove I can be consistent,” Fragel said. “That’s hard to do in workouts. But there’s no doubt in my mind I can do it. By the end of the season, I was so confident in my game. I felt totally natural.”

As Stoneburner and Fragel’s stock has risen, Johnathan Hankins’ has tumbled. Once viewed as a top-10 pick, Hankins is now a second-round selection on most mock draft boards.

He performed in the bottom half of a handful of drills at the combine, beginning a free fall. But the situation doesn’t have Hankins, an eternal optimist who always carries a wide grin, worried about his future.

“The combine was the biggest thing I’ve been through, just the experience,” he said. “I was blessed to be part of it. I’m just enjoying the process and getting ready for the big day.”

Hankins deservedly earned the nickname “Big Hank” when he arrived at Ohio State three years ago. He’s done plenty to shed that label, though. At weigh-in during his freshman season, Hankins weighed 350 pounds – and a majority of that wasn’t so-called “good weight.”

The scales immediately took a liking to Hankins once current strength coach Mickey Marotti got a hold of him just over 12 months ago. Thirty pounds were shed. Hankins said between 320 and 325 is his ideal playing weight for the NFL.

His support system during the past couple months has included Meyer, Luke Fickell, Mike Vrabel, former Buckeye and current Steeler Mike Adams and former defensive coordinator Jim Heacock, who was present at the Woody Hayes.

Hankins lauded Heacock for recruiting him and the opportunity to play at Ohio State. Without it, the NFL might not be a possibility.

“I still keep in contact with Coach Heacock. He’s like a father to me,” Hankins said. “He gave me an opportunity to play at Ohio State. It’s been a journey. He always saw something in me. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be here.”

Where Hankins is is a position where he can better the lives of those around him. First- and second-round money in the NFL isn’t as big as it once was, but it is still life changing. It’s going in a bank account, according to the big fella, but his family will be taken care of.

“I always knew I was going to be a great player. I just felt like I had to take it upon myself to prove it, and I feel like I did.”

“I’m going to save my money, play ball and enjoy life,” Hankins said. “I feel good that my parents might not have to work anymore and knowing I can help my family and be the provider. I’m blessed, and I’m going to take care of that money.”

To Hankins, his draft-day moment was inevitable.

“I always knew I was going to be a great player,” he said. “I just felt like I had to take it upon myself to prove it, and I feel like I did.”

Others taking part in drills were Zach Boren, Travis Howard, Orhian Johnson, Zach Domicone, Nathan Williams and Kharim Stephens.

Boren said he’s gained 12 pounds since the combine, which was a goal. He also improved his 40 time. Whether it’s fullback, linebacker or long snapper, Boren said he’s determined to make an NFL roster.

The entire lot of former Buckeyes is just beginning the chase of their professional careers.

23 Comments

Comments

BoFuquel's picture

Good Luck Buckeyes.GO BUCKS!

I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

BuckeyeChief's picture

I really liked how Troy gave Ballard a shout out; I really feel like the Giants screwed up by not keeping him. Good luck fellas!

 

"Clutch has no boundaries"

RedStorm45's picture

Is he like the third or fourth TE in New England?  Didn't they pick up the old Vikings TE as well?

FH_Buckeye's picture

I live in NYC and the Giants defiantly wanted to keep Ballard.  They just got out maneuvered by the Patriots front office.  Something to do with the various roster rules the NFL has.

BuckeyeChief's picture

Yeah, initially it was reported as him being cut, then it was a waivers rule.

 

"Clutch has no boundaries"

awwwwwwop's picture

Yea he was put on waivers so they could move him to an inactive list thinking nobody would take a chance on a TE who played for one season and had a major knee reconstruction but the Patriots are not normal or predictable.

"Who cares? Go Bucks." - Aaron Untch

RedStorm45's picture

A lot of "tweeners" in this group.  Fragel still filling out his tackle frame.  Stoneburner at WR/TE.  Boren...pick a position.  Both Simon and Williams are seen on the DL or at LB due to their size, depending on the team and scheme.
I guess it's now possible that last year's 12-0 team will have had no 1st round seniors (or juniors who left) on it.  And nothing to play for.  Kind of crazy.

German Buckeye's picture

Can Hank pull back his draft eligibility since he's dropped so far on the boards or is the bridge burnt?

Hovenaut's picture

It's cool for any Buckeye to get an opportunity to shine at the professional level. I think Troy Smith had one of his finer moments as a Buckeye.....talking up some of these younger guys in their efforts to get a shot.

Whether or not Troy gets a second shot, I think that was pretty damn cool of him.

Best of luck to all these guys, especially #10. Well done, Buckeye.

"Success - it's what you do with what you got" - Woody Hayes

45buckshot's picture

+1

Veni, vidi, vici

UM3

BuckeyeMike2002's picture

I hope that any of these young men that get a shot, save and spend the money wisely. What percentage of the young men that play for TOSU will actually get a shot at the Pro's.
These young men get the chance to make life changing money and yet a large percentage of them wind up broke, busted and back where they started. I hope that Big Hank will get back to Columbus at some point and finish the degree. Despite the money involved the best opportunity that Ohio State football provides for the vast majority of the players is the chance to get a degree.
I think the NCAA's perception of student athlete is archaic and based in 1913 more than 2013, but every one of these kids that gets a college degree and goes on to live great lives, have accomplished the mission of the university.
Go Bucks!

Q: What is the difference between the Michigan Football Team and a bag of crap.

A: The Bag.

45has2's picture

How can you do any better on your pro day than to have 10 slinging you the rock? Nice to hear Heacock was back at the Woody. I'm surprised he hasn't been snapped up as a DC by someone. His defenses allowed Tressel to play Tresselball. Jim Bollman gets job after job after job for crying out loud.

"I don't like nice people. I like tough, honest people." -W.W. Hayes

GV9's picture

Maybe he retired?  He's 64 years old according to Wiki.

Buckeyejason's picture

I hope Hankins ends up in the 1st round..what a great talent and person. Jake will be a solid pick in the middle rounds and could be a solid backup TE down the road. No way in hell Fragel goes in the second round. I think he flourished from going against average to bad D-lines. 

BUCKEYES BABY!

sir rickithda3rd's picture

i too hope hankins ends up in the first round. however, i do see fragel soaring up boards and going in the third. potential is a nice word to be attached to in the draft

mark may wins douchebag of the year... again

Kalamazoo Steve's picture

I'm sorry for my lack of knowledge when it comes to scouting for NFL QB's, but how in God's name is Troy Smith not at least a 3rd string signal caller? Size? Check Brees & Wilson. Dude is a leader and player. I just don't get it.

yankeescum's picture

These draft prognosticators are completely differently abled.  I know that the combine is used by the NFL, but to drop Hankins from the top/middle of the first, to off of their top 50 prospects because the combine showed what anyone who watched him already knew?  Insane.  The kid will go in the first, probably in the first half.  

Buckeyejason's picture

^ the combine is a joke. Basically another way for the NFL to make money now broadcasting it and hyping up the event. 

BUCKEYES BABY!

Kevdaddy8's picture

Just saw on the NFL Network as they were reviewing Ohio State's pro day that one of the guys said that the most impressive Buckeye at their pro day was....Troy Smith.  Apparently he looked great throwing the ball.  He made all of the throws and was in good shape.  Word has it that the scouts for several pro teams are talking him up.  Don't be shocked if we see Troy get another shot, even if it's as a back up!

JYBUCKEYE's picture

That's great!  I hope he gets another shot. I always wanted the browns to sign him.  But with c. McCoy and s. Wallace  type talent on the roster there was obviously no room. 

dan_isaacs's picture

I'd always thought Russell Wilson was just a less accomplished Troy Smith.  I always wondered why Troy never got a shot after the Ravens went with Flacco.  Given Wilson's success, I suspected Troy would get one now, if he were still in shape.  :)

Dan Isaacs

jaxbuckeye's picture

I also don't get these guys.  Big Hank is exactly one of those guys that doesn't have eye popping college stats but was built for the NFL.  A big, athletic defensive tackle is like a big, athletic center in basketball.  They are rare and a hot commodity.  I will be SHOCKED if teams aren't playing him down to snatch him up in the bottom of the 1st round.  Otherwise they are nuts!
My guess is someone like Pitts, Balt, NE, or NY Giants will snatch him up. People wonder why they stay good (because they follow tape, not scouts).