It's not time to scramble into our bomb shelters or fret that the sky is falling. However, I am a little concerned at the lack of interest that OSU receives from big time TE prospects. Sure, we find ourselves making the top 3 cut but the past few years we havent been able to get the signature when its all said and done.
Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett will be solid for us this season and have the talent to have a major impact in the passing game. But, how.many offseasons do we hear, "this is the year that the tight ends will have a breakout year." Heuerman has the talent and size advantage to be one of our top receivers this year. Urban even went as far as saying that Jeff and Nick could be the most talented tight ends he has ever coached. The season ended and we saw little production, yet again, from our tight ends. Quite baffling when you consider the times that Heuerman was actually targeted and the big gains that were a result. The Orange Bowl is a great example when #86 was open on the seam and we didnt go back to him. I don't know about everyone else, but I was praying that we would go over the top to him on play.action all night. It worked when we finally did, but his number didnt get called as much as it probably should.
Maybe the blame falls on Braxton for not going throughall his reads, but if our tight ends are as good as Coach Meyer alluded to, wouldn't the coaches make it a point to draw up a few plays in order to get the ball in their hands once in a while? It's this lack of involvement that is sending prospects to other programs. Playmakers at tight end want the ball, not being just another blocker in the run game.
Mike Gesicki, Chris Clark and Hale Hentges are all guys that the coaches recruited hard but cant't seem to close to deal (although the war isn't over with Clark and Hentges, it seems that its trending away from the good guys) Noah Brown could slid into the tight end and Malik Hooker might also be an intriguing addition to the spot with his athleticism. If Marcus Baugh can get his head on straight, he has the hands to be a good player in a year or two. However, these guys are more of the flex tight ends that are great in the passing game, but not as much when it comes to blocking. Having great hands in a tight end is fantastic, but in our run heavy offense we need tight ends who can handle a defensive end or linebacker when the ball gets bounced outside. This is where missing out on guys like Gesicki and Clark stings a little more. We need to sign guys who can catch but are also big enough to be a solid blocker as well. I look at the remaining prospects for OSU this year and most are hybrid tight ends (Miles Boykin, CJ Conrad for example).
Unfortunately for Ohio State, the only way to change the perception that the tight end is just a glorified lineman in Columbus is to produce on the field. (Don't think that other coaches aren't reminding prospective recruits about how little we throw to our TEs) Production can't be changed over night. It will take a season or two of good numbers for recruits to believe that they will actually get the ball in Columbus. Sure, Urban can show film on how essential Aaron Hernandez was to his offense at Florida or that Tom Herman relied heavily on his tight ends at Rice or Iowa State. The problem with that is when Hernandez played at Florida or when Herman was at Rice, current recruits were not even in middle school and surely were not paying alot of attention to college football. That is ancient history for them. They arent seeing a Urban or Hermans tight ends making big plays on Sportscenter. In order to change our luck recruting top notch tight ends, the playcalling must change first and that will take time.
Some may argue that this offense relies more on speedy wide receivers and running backs than it does on quality tight ends and that is probably true. But, to have a championship caliber team annually, no position can be neglected. I am not saying that Ohio State will be fielding walk ons or 1 star athletes at tight end, but we nees to sign some true tight ends in the upcoming classes or it will come back to haunt us. The coaches can't expect converted wide receivers to get down in a three point stance and properly block a defensive end on read option plays. We will always rely on the running game to set the tone for our offense. We can't expect to run the ball effectively without a true tight end on the field. Someone who can block as well as catch the ball and the past two recruiting classes have been missing that kind of player.
No, the sky is not falling. Urban will continue to reel in top 5 recruiting classes and will have OSU in the playoff discussion. I am concerned about the lack of quality tight ends coming to Columbus. In order to draw in top notch blue chippers, the coaches have got to show them that the tight ends will be utilized in our offense. The blame cannot be totally blamed on thr QB for not going through all hos progressions. The coaches are responsible for setting up their players for success. Sure, Braxton is going to pull the ball down and scramble for a 20 yard gain and that's fine. Thats who he is. However, that does not excuse the coaches for not drawing up a few plays for their tight ends, seeing as how the coaches rave about them. We are bringing in studs at every postion across the board. It's disheartening to see the Bucks come up blank at tight end. Its more important than most people give credit. Eventually, those blanks are going to creep up on us.
Is it September yet?