Ohio State tight end Jeff Heuerman saw his senior season begin with a thud as he suffered a foot injury requiring surgery sidelining him until June but assuming there are no complications, the Naples, Florida product could make a run at the finest single-season performance by a Buckeye tight end since Rickey Dudley hauled in 37 balls for 575 yards in 1995.
I know what you're thinking. Every year this theme crops up as the head coach, just like Urban Meyer did earlier this week, touts the headliner and the backups – Heuerman along with Nick Vannett and Marcus Baugh in this latest instance – as one of the most talented tight end units around only to see the group barely utilized in the passing game.
Vannett and Baugh may not put up numbers worthy of the hype but with Heuerman coming off 26 catch, 466 yard season with four touchdowns, not only is the hype warranted, he might actually be flying under the radar.
For some perspective, Heuerman's 2013 receiving output was good enough for third best on the team and Ohio State tight ends accounted for 19% of the receiving yards, good for the most during the Braxton Miller era.
|YEAR / TE||REC||% REC||YDS||% YDS||TD||% TDS|
Heuerman's numbers carried the tight end production a season ago and included numerous clutch plays that should make him even more of a go-to target for Miller this fall as the senior quarterback lost his favorite target from a year ago (Philly 63/771).
In a tight 34-24 win over Iowa, Heuerman recorded a career high five passes for 38 yards as he was targeted five different times on first down to help neutralize a solid set of Hawkeye linebackers.
The following week, he blew up against lowly Purdue racking up five grabs for 116 yards including a 40-yard touchdown becoming the first Buckeye since Dudley in '96 to eclipse the century mark.
In The Game, Heuerman exploited the Wolverine defense twice on seam routes, one a 22-yard touchdown putting Ohio State in front 35-21 in the 3rd quarter of what became a 42-41 victory.
Finally, in the Orange Bowl loss to Clemson, Heuerman flipped momentum with a 57-yard touchdown grab with the Buckeyes trailing 20-9 late in the 2nd quarter, again down the seam, breathing new life into an Ohio State squad knocked on its heels to that point.
Heuerman's impressive year quietly accounted for the most receptions in a single-season by a tight end since Ben Hartsock's 33 in 2003 and the most receiving yards since Dudley's 575 in 1995.
In fact, the no-brainer choice as a captain is just another 26 catches from 6th place on Ohio State's all-time tight end receiving list and needs only 383 yards to move into 2nd place all-time among Buckeye tight ends behind Bruce Janikowski. He's also just five touchdown grabs away from tying John Lumpkin for the most by a tight-end in school history with 10.
So when you hear Meyer talk about Ohio State making it a point to involve the tight ends, with a healthy Heuerman in the mix, this just might be the year to believe the hype.