Heuerman Breaks Tight End Hex, Poised for Encore in 2014

By Kyle Rowland on January 28, 2014 at 9:15a
28 Comments
Off and away.

The final numbers may not elicit a “wow factor,” but Jeff Heuerman’s 2013 season may as well be Sammy Watkins-like stats when you consider the graveyard of Ohio State tight ends. The likes of Jake Ballard, Rory Nicol and Ryan Hamby could never become consistent pass-catchers in Jim Tressel’s offense. So Heuerman’s 26 receptions, 466 yards and four touchdowns are nothing to scoff at.

He was the team’s third-leading receiver and recorded the best yards per catch average. In what could be described as the Buckeyes’ three biggest games of the season – Michigan, Michigan State and Clemson – Heuerman caught four passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns.

The athletic 6-foot-6, 250-pound Heuerman has not only become a reliable target for Braxton Miller by stretching defenses, he’s also developed into a valuable blocker for an offense that became run-centric behind Carlos Hyde’s tree trunk thighs. But Hyde won’t be part of the game plan next season, and combined with more cohesion with Miller and experience, Heuerman is expected to be an even bigger cog in one of the nation’s highest scoring offenses.

“He’s really, really, really good,” tight ends coach Tim Hinton said. “I mean, really good at what he does.”

That was never more evident than Nov. 2 in West Lafayette, Ind., a town he summarily disparaged earlier in the week, referring to the Northwest Indiana outpost as a “gray city” and deemed the locker rooms as “awful.” Instead of seeking revenge on Heuerman, Purdue played good host, using an ole defense that resulted in Heuerman’s record-setting day.

He finished with five catches for 116 yards and a touchdown. Heuerman juked, jumped and jived past defenders. All told, it was the best performance by an Ohio State tight end in nearly 20 years. It was a day dreamed about by Ballard and Jake Stoneburner, the two tight ends to precede Heuerman.

“I’ve been blessed to have been around a lot of great players,” Heuerman said. “Having a running back like Carlos Hyde, having a quarterback like Braxton Miller and receivers like we’ve got. All those guys being so good really helps me do my job. It opens a lot of opportunities.”

The last highlight for a tight end came in the Rose Bowl when a Terrelle Pryor pass somehow found the outstretched hands of Ballard, who soared into the starry Pasadena night.

Before last season, Hinton labeled Heuerman and Nick Vannett as “1 and 1A.” That may still be true on the depth chart, but it’s clear Heuerman is the Buckeyes’ top tight end. The duo attracts attention from coaches because of their versatility. Size, speed, physicality – both have it. Offensive coordinator Tom Herman said Ohio State has the best tight end combo in college football.

Expect Heuerman to continue carrying the torch in 2014.

“This offense really gives the tight end the opportunity to do a lot of things,” Heuerman said. “We’re in the backfield motioning around, we’re split out wide, lined up on the line at tight end, lined up at H-back. We’re lined up all over the place. It’s fun. It give us a lot of opportunities to do things traditional offenses, and other offenses don’t let you do.”

Creativity was abundant during Ohio State’s 24-game win streak. Not only are Meyer and Herman two of the most progressive offensive minds in the sport, they also agree on the tight end being an integral part of efficient units. Aaron Hernandez was Florida’s leading receiver in 2009, while Rice’s James Casey tallied 111 catches, 1,329 yards and 13 touchdowns for the 10-win Owls in 2008, earning All-American honors.

Having an up-tempo offense allows the Buckeyes to utilize their tight ends even more frequently. A tight end that can fill multiple roles, and not just be a glorified tackle, puts stress on opposing defenses that are already gassed.

“The whole premise of being no-huddle is to keep the defense on the field and running around and getting tired,” Herman said. “If you’re subbing guys out that have specialty roles, then the defense is allowed to sub, too.”

Miller’s noticed a lack of respect aimed at Heuerman, which contributed to his productive season and historic day against the Boilermakers. What Miller would like one his favorite targets to end is his hurdling of defenders.

“A lot of guys have been coming after my legs,” Heuerman said, “so I just gave it a little jump, trying to get a few extra yards.”

The fearlessness displayed comes from a lifetime of playing hockey. Before football, Heuerman dreamed of hoisting the Stanley Cup in a Detroit Red Wings sweater. But after a year stint on one of the nation’s top junior teams, Heuerman traded his skates for cleats. But the rugged attitude remained intact.

Heuerman’s textbook blocking is reminiscent of checking someone into the boards. And he takes it just as serious as catching passes. That was apparent when he took out two players in one fell swoop against Penn State. It earned him buckeye leaves and praise from Hinton.

“I think a lot of it is mental,” Heuerman said. “Obviously, I’m not the biggest tight end that’s ever played the game. A lot of guys I block are bigger and weigh more than me.”

Ironically, it’s a missed block that Heuerman is (currently) most remembered for. On 4th and 2 with the Big Ten championship – and national championship – on the line, Heuerman couldn’t corral Michigan State’s Denicos Allen, who tackled Miller short of the first-down marker.

Prior to the Orange Bowl, Heuerman said he watched the replay “a million times” and revealed that he still struggles with the outcome of such an enormously important play.

“It’s obviously one of those plays you wish you could have back,” Heuerman said. “But it’s part of the game of football. One play, yeah, I wish I could have it back, but you’ve got to move on from it.”

And that’s what Heuerman is eyeing – a 2014 with an alternate ending. This time, the confetti is scarlet and gray.

28 Comments

Comments

Mortc15's picture

Heuerman could end up being the best receiver on the team next year. When speed all the over field making defenders fly around, seam routes and the middle of the field are sure to be open again, like it was for much of last year but failed to capitalize on enough.
I wish game 1 was less than 7 months away.

Buck-I4Life

osu07asu10's picture

Heuerman could end up being the best receiver on the team next year. When speed all the over field making defenders fly around, seam routes and the middle of the field are sure to be open again, like it was for much of last year but failed to capitalize on enough.

Couldn't agree more. However, he was open quite a few times this past season and Miller couldn't find him in his progression.
Jeff Heuerman will only be as successful as Braxton's development as a passer or he becomes the primary read on pass plays. Regardless, Heuerman has a bright future on Sundays. Someone who can block like he can block and also be an athletic pass catcher definitely will have spot in the league after next season.

"They don't know what they don't know." - Coach Mick

Buckeye06's picture

I agree on the 2nd point, and if Braxton gets only minimally better at his progressions, or even Jeff H. moves up in the progression look (so he's the 1st or second option) I wouldn't be surprised if we saw a reception number in the 40s, with 6-7 TDs.  That's only like 3 a game so not too much to ask for I dont think.
One of my favorite OSU plays of all time was when Tressel and co. surprised everyone in the stadium, and all those watching on tv, with the screen pass to Fragel Rock for 40 yards.  It is sometimes a forgotten position, and OSU should take advantage where they have a size advantage like this

Mortc15's picture

Yes. My point of not capitalizing enough was directed at the qb play and not finding him, such as the BTCG when he tried to find Spencer(?) and had Heuer wide open down the field. Hopefully another year will clear up those problems and the sky becomes the limit for Heuerman and the entire offense.

Buck-I4Life

Buckeye_in_SEC_country's picture

If Braxton learns to read defenses and go through progressions a little better in 2014, Heuerman could be a 1,000 yard TE.   

Crumb's picture

They have the ability to do it! Have we ever had an 1,000 yard TE at tOSU? I don't think we have. The last receiver we had go for 1000 yards was Michael Jenkins.

"The only good thing about it is winning the d*** thing" - Urban Meyer on The Game The War

Chief B1G Dump's picture

I have had a special thing for good TEs since I learned at an early age in video games that they are unstoppable if used properly. They can be the perfect safety blanket, chain mover, red zone target, seam splitter and mismatch option.
I have wanted for years now, for OSU to work teams with the TE like demoralizing body blows. I dont care about the window dressing of moving the TE all around the formation but I am hopeful that we can get more use out of the position moving forward. Just another option to create open spaces/seams and an added dimension for teams to worry about.

I feel like we keep hearing, every year, about using the TE more and them being involved. Yet its always in a 1 or 2 game spurt, then nothing. Heuerman has the size and tools...hoping he gets the chances/looks. As it currently stands, he only gets the ball when he is streaking open for 30yds. Thats not the play calling but its his depth in the progrrssion..

Buckeye_in_SEC_country's picture

Reads and progressions by Braxton are the keys to Heuerman's success next year.  JT Barrett is supposed to be a more polished passer than Braxton, so the passing game should improve when he becomes the QB.  Unfortunately for Heuerman, he will be gone when JT takes over.  

Chief B1G Dump's picture

Totally agree. 
Was just hoping the TE came in as first option a couple of times a game. Not just a guy who gets Braxton's attention when he is wide open doing jumping jacks down the seam. 

BoFuquel's picture

Great job Jeff. Brax will need good down field blocking this year more than ever. GO BUCKS!

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

MN Buckeye's picture

While I recall his spectacular catch-and-run plays, Heuermann's blocking really developed this year. He, along with the receivers, was key to Hyde having a monster season. I look forward to this coming season.

Jpfbuck's picture

the fact that Heuerman caught about 2 passes a game when we only completed 17 per game as a team is really reasoable use. Add in Vannet's 8 catches and that's almost 15% of our total on the year.
 
Back in 03 Hartsock and Hanby caught 51 passes out of only 208 completions. or about 25%. Since then we have rarely topped that 15% mark.
in 07 Ballard, Nicol and Smith were at about 15% same was true in 2010 when Ballard and Stoney were about 15%.
 
But since that 2003 season the highest percent was 2011 when Stoney, Fragel and Heuerman caught 20 out of 125 total completions for 16%.

bull1214's picture

im tired of hearing about how good our tight ends are then watching them be wasted. its time for a 50 catch season atleast

O-H-I-Owe-U's picture

Let's get the ball to the tight ends every play of the opening drive of the season. Just to set the tone. 

Seattle Linga's picture

Let's aim to have the tight ends catch a TD every game this season.

MattyBeingMatty's picture

Seeing the letters H,A,M,B,Y together makes me sick and angry!

“Not everybody’s the perfect person in the world, I mean everyone kills people, murders people, steals from you, steals from me, whatever. I think that people need a second chance, and I’ve always looked up to Mike Vick." -TP

ABrown07's picture

I love this guy, heck of a football player and (in my Ace Ventura voice) one helluva model american!

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

seafus26's picture

I forgive Heauman's missed block. He was trying. You win some you lose some, and he had the disadvantage against the defenders with everyone in stadium knowing what was coming. I however still don't forgive Ryan Hsmby's missed block resulting in Tamba Hali's strip sack of Troy Smith as we're attempting final drive to win the game. I still don't think Hamby has gotten out of his stance. Hali ran right around him with no effort from Hamby. The drop vs Texas I can forgive. He at least was trying. He'll, that play would result in a penalty and automatic first down, today.

Go Bucks and michigan STILL SUCKS!

Buckeye_in_SEC_country's picture

The ball should've been in Hyde's hands.  I believe I read somewhere that Hyde touched the ball 4 times after we went up 24-17.  In simple terms, Herman blew it.  

MattyBeingMatty's picture

4 times would be great... because sadly, it was only 2.  To this day it is my most hated stat ever! I agree 100% it should have been in his hands.

“Not everybody’s the perfect person in the world, I mean everyone kills people, murders people, steals from you, steals from me, whatever. I think that people need a second chance, and I’ve always looked up to Mike Vick." -TP

ibuck's picture

Agreed about Hyde getting more carries, which is why I find this quote curious:

Not only are Meyer and Herman two of the most progressive offensive minds in the sport...

If this statement were true, why did the Buckeyes have such poor 3rd down conversion in their last 3 games?  I'd like for the statement to be true, but Meyer and Herman will have to show me. Had they won just 1 of the last 2 games, when the offense could have won the game at the end, they failed—because they were predictable.

Our honor defend, we will fight to the end !

BuckFly's picture

I had previously banned memories of that Texas game to the nether reaches of my consciousness to never be recalled again.  Be that as it may, Hamby had two chances to catch the same pass for a touchdown on that play!  The result was a devastating loss, and Justin Zwick was banished to 2nd team QB for the remainder of his career.  However, it did set the stage for the balance of Troy Smith's career....

Crumb's picture

Going on 9 years later and that game still hurts.

"The only good thing about it is winning the d*** thing" - Urban Meyer on The Game The War

bucknut94's picture

I may be wrong but I didn't see Miller throw many or any short passes over the middle. I think throwing some short slants may have made the linebackers play back rather than crowd the line of scrimmage. I'm not a football guru, but I believe more short slants or throws over the middle to the tight end could have made a positive impact on the passing and running game. I am wondering if Herman didn't trust Miller to throw balls over the middle of the field?

extemporary08's picture

Nice! a fellow Red Wings fan...

Hovenaut's picture

Cooper's teams had some quality tight ends - Cedric Saunders, D.J. Jones, Darnell Sanders and Rickey Dudley.
Wouldn't mind seeing Heuerman seeing consistent targets next season - I think he's both a safety valve and a big play guy.

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

D-Day0043's picture

I tell you what, I think Heauerman is going to make some NFL team very happy in the 3rd or 4th round of the draft. He can block, he can catch, run descent routes, block in space, and flex out wide. The kid is an athlete. I really hope they utilize him this year.

I am D-Day0043 and I approve this message.

Seattle Linga's picture

We have so many weapons on the team and BM will have his hands full distributing to everyone as often as possible.