Fools: Ohio State Tight Ends Have Jokes, Potential

By Kyle Rowland on April 5, 2013 at 10:00a
The Joker

Every year is supposed to be a breakout year for Ohio State’s tight ends. This season, that might actually be the case.

With athletic playmakers like Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett occupying the position, mixed with Urban Meyer’s offensive philosophies, the potential for a cocktail of points and highlights seems inevitable.

The duo only combined for 17 catches and 217 yards a year ago, but the offense wasn’t a well-oiled machine either. The first season in the system had numerous roadblocks along the way. Entering Year 2, the level of confidence and togetherness has hit a new high.

“Last spring we were putting in a new offense, with the new coaching staff coming in, and so the emphasis for me was on figuring it out, learning it and getting confident with it," Vannett said. “Now I've got that whole year behind me where I understand it and I can just go out and play the game and be confident. And I am definitely more confident this year than I was last spring.”

Said Heuerman: “We can do a lot, between Nick and I. We have a great combination of tight ends. That is huge. You can’t just play with one tight end. We’re getting better every day. It’ll be a good year.”

According to Heuerman, who’s developed quite a reputation for being a jokester, the tight ends are No. 1 on the offense’s pecking order – ahead of Braxton Miller. When Heuerman made the claim, he did so with a straight face. It quickly gave way to a smile, though.

The current situation Heuerman finds himself in wasn’t exactly what he signed up for. But he isn’t going to start complaining anytime soon. Jim Tressel was the head coach when Heuerman was being recruited out of Naples, Fla. Tight end wasn’t exactly a glamour position under the old regime. Recovering a fumble was the most likely way to touch the football.

In a Meyer-led offense, the viewpoint is a tad bit different.

“A lot of people say this is the best offense in the country for the tight end,” Heuerman said.

“It’s fun. No one was sure of it or what was going on last season. Once you get it down, though, it’s a lot of fun. You get to do a whole lot of things you wouldn’t normally do in a pro-style offense.”

At Florida, Meyer helped groom Aaron Hernandez into one of the top tight ends in college. Hernandez caught nearly 70 passes during the 2009 season and has since gone on to a noteworthy NFL career in New England, teamed with Rob Gronkowski. In the past decade, the most receptions for an Ohio State tight end is 33, by Ben Hartsock in 2003.

And it’s not just Meyer. Offensive coordinator Tom Herman sees the value in tight ends as well. So much so that in 2011, Rice tight end James Casey caught 111 passes with Herman calling plays.

Being compared to Gronkowski could go two ways for Heuerman – on and off the field. Former Buckeye Reid Fragel, who doubles as Heuerman’s roommate and best friend, made the comparison recently on Twitter. Along with being the best tight end in the NFL, Gronkowski makes even more headlines for his off-the-field antics.

Heuerman isn’t known as a troublemaker and he’s been a model citizen away from the football field during his two years in Columbus. But he played a prank on tight ends coach Tim Hinton recently that put himself in Gronkowski territory. 

“He was turning red. He was on his phone, saying, ‘What are we going to do?’”

Hinton is always wary when Heuerman and his brother, Mike, a tight end at Notre Dame, hang out together, because they tend to get rowdy. As luck would have it, Mike decided to drive his new car to Columbus this past weekend. When Hinton found out, he urged Jeff to be careful and not get out of hand.

Mickey Marotti and Ryan Stamper took it from there. Knowing that Hinton would believe a tale about the brothers getting in trouble, the two staff members told him that the Heuerman brothers stumbled upon an attempted theft of their car and decided to get into an altercation.

It left the wrongdoers on the sidewalk. The problem was they were able to identify their assailants. Heuerman would be arrested at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, Hinton was told by Marotti and Stamper.

“(Hinton) had his head in his hands,” Heuerman said, laughing. “He was turning red. He was on his phone, saying, ‘What are we going to do?’”

Then Heuerman broke the news to him: “April Fools.”

“He was so happy afterward, he couldn’t even be mad because he was so happy it wasn’t true.”

He’ll grow happier with each reception, yard and touchdown Heuerman – and Vannett – has come fall. The production is leaving one station marked “expectation” and entering the next titled “must.”

Heuerman and Vannett not only have the talent to reach the top level of tight ends in the country, but they also have the size to match those skills, stretching defenses and keeping linebackers, cornerbacks and safeties perplexed.

“That to me what is what’s exciting about that position, having guys with long length and strength,” Hinton said. 

Each is 6-foot-6 and in the 250-pound range. They come included with blocking and pass-catching services, and versatility that makes opposing offensive coordinators drool and defensive coordinators sweat.

Heuerman already flashed his array of talents on an 80-yard touchdown catch-and-run during the spring.   

“I’m just excited about being more of an every-down tight end,” he said.

“I think I have improved the most in the passing game. Last year Jake was the focus of the passing game with regard to the H-back/tight end players. This year in practice I'm seeing more balls and running more routes. And I like it.”

“The bottom line is we have a very large volume of stuff to do,” Hinton said. “We need a great group of guys who want to absorb it, because their duties are endless.”


Comments Show All Comments

buckguyfan1's picture

Some good guys that potential stud Marcus Baugh can learn from and push this fall.  Another position turned from above average to now a strength. 

Culp's Freaking Hill's picture

It really is crazy to see the position change in such a short time.

Twitter: @conquestnorman

Michael Citro's picture

I've liked that Heuerman kid ever since this photo:


buckeye4life050233's picture

can't wait till marcus baugh gets on campus.......he looked good in the under armour game and practices as well as the aaron hernandez frame and athletic ability.....he could crack the lineup should he learn the offense well enough fast enough

QBYBuckeye's picture

Not only are the players more familiar with the system, but the coaches are more familiar with the players.  That, plus the added players/talent, ought to make for a very interesting season.
For similar reasons, I am less concerned about the Defense than most people seem to be.  There was some carry-over in the coaching staff on Defense, but there were a couple key additions, and the carry-overs had to get used to UFM and what he wanted.  The staff is talking about replacing lost leadership more than talent or ability.
I will be disappointed if we don't run the table.  I'm not predicting we will because I understand how difficult that is, but there isn't a game in which we won't be at least a 7 point favorite (in my mind).

New York Buckeye

Buckeyeneer's picture

The Farce is strong with this one.

"Because the rules won't let you go for three." - Woody Hayes

THE Ohio State University

IBleedSandG's picture

A lot of people were excited about signing Marcus Baugh (rightfully so), but I've always thought both Heuerman and Vannett would turn out to be really solid players. They are both big guys that are athletic and can run.


Hovenaut's picture

Expect to see the TE spot contribute with some consistency as the passing game improves. Even with the speed we'll see on the edge, Brax out of the spread and Hyde/Hall hammering the middle, it wouldn't surprise me to see some under the radar big plays out of the end spot.

Hueurman and Vannett have proven their mettle in limited opportunities so far, and I'm eager to see Baugh turn potential into production - from what I've seen/read he looks legit.

southernstatesbuckeye's picture

The potential for greatness lies with this team, this year and next.  Imagine a dynamic dual threat quarterback...who has multiple and reliable targets on his offense...and a who's who of guys who can pound it right in your face...all protected by a rock solid O line.  Wha?
Nawww.  Cmon.  That's fantasy island.  "Boss!  Da plane!  Da plane!"
No, here's fantasy: At the same time as its offense goes elite...the Ohio State silver bullets return as the scarlet lasers...and our defensive secondary starts to scare the bee mama out of offensive coordinators in parallel universes.  As exciting and fun as it's gonna be to watch this offense accelerate, it's gonna be a clinic on defense. 
And I believe our special teams are going to have a breakout year as well.  With elite recruits vying to showcase skills, it will be a madhouse.
We have an embarrassment of riches, my friends.
These kids have turned a corner in effort.  They are becoming teachers of incoming freshmen more and more.  And the act of teaching in and of itself teaches again the teacher.  We call it "reinforcement".  This is the result of excellent motivational strategy from a unified coaching staff.  We simply call that " elite coaching."
Just kidding.  It's actually an alien mind ray device. 
Perfectly cool gag for Braxton:  After crushing the hopes of the mayznblu in November...he scalps his yellow scalp and...well, I confess I have no idea what he'd do with it then.
But in upcoming news...
I believe this team is intending to unleash the most merciless pounding on the Big Ten that it has seen in a very long time.  And I mean just mean, hard nosed football.  It's good we have a few "jokers" on the team...because we'll need a little levity after seeing them go for the jugular of every team they face.  If you are of squeemish sustenance, you may have to turn away from the carnage in the fall.  To prepare yourself, watch CSI, NCIS, and few bloody horror movies from now into fall.  Learn CPR.
"There will be Blood."
Maybe my homer eyes, but this team is built for...dare I say it?, dare I?  Yes.  I dares. 
This team is built for back to back national championships. 
There.  I said it. 
Now deal with it.

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