Heuerman Searching for Redemption in Senior Season

By Kyle Rowland on July 10, 2014 at 8:30a

Jeff Heuerman isn’t a villain. The Ohio State fanbase didn’t feel betrayed. Urban Meyer and Gene Smith didn’t issue a statement castigating the Buckeye tight end. But there was a mistake made last season by Heuerman that gives him an opportunity at redemption in 2014 – possibly like a certain someone in the Cleveland area.  

With the Big Ten Championship Game hanging in the balance, national championship hopes on the line, Ohio State ran Braxton Miller to the right on fourth-and-2 against Michigan State. It appeared for a split second that Miller was going to reach the mark with nary a problem.

Then Heuerman missed a block.

When Denicos Allen corralled Miller, bringing him to the Lucas Oil Stadium turf a yard shy of the first down, Ohio State’s ticket to Pasadena was shredded. The Buckeyes didn’t lose solely because Allen bounced off an attempted block from Heuerman. But it happened on the biggest play of the game, so that’s what grabs the spotlight.

For Heuerman, it was agony.  

“It’s obviously one of those plays you wish you could have back,” Heuerman said in December. “But it’s part of the game of football. You’ve got to move on from it.”

He said he watched the play on film and envisioned it mentally a million times. Winning is at the forefront of any athlete’s mind. Inevitably, though, they’ll experience heartbreak. Sports aren’t supposed to be easy, making championships that much more satisfying and rewarding.

It also makes the hurt and sting more intense. Athletes at high-profile university invest their formative years to be successful at a game and possibly better their lives in the future. Heuerman didn’t hurt his NFL hopes, but he created a deep wound.

“I beat myself up a little bit,” he said. “Every competitive athlete does. I don’t think anyone can kind of shake off a play like that or a game like that, especially the outcome. But…you can’t dwell on the past.”

Or injuries. Heuerman was sidelined midway through spring drills after suffering a foot injury that required surgery. He only recently returned to working out. It’s not expected to linger – and Braxton Miller is hoping that holds true.

Heuerman, a Mackey Award candidate, finished last season with 26 receptions for 466 yards and four touchdowns. He enters his senior season with an added role in terms of reliance on offense and leadership.

“He will be a captain of our team and a guy who leads our team,” Meyer said.

It’s possible Heuerman and Nick Vannett could be paired in a two-tight end system. There was speculation it would be a frequent sight in 2013, but the plan never came to fruition. Meyer in on record with proclaiming the duo is not only the best group of tight ends he’s coached, but also the top two tight ends in the country.

“We’re trying to prove to the coaches they’ll make a mistake if they don’t put us on the field together,” Vannett said during spring practice. “This is the last year Jeff and I are together, so it’s now or never.”

Vannett’s shown flashes here and there. Heuerman’s had the on-field proof in bunches. Never was it more apparent than at Purdue last year – just days after he blistered the city of West Lafayette – when he totaled five catches for 116 yards with a 40-yard touchdown reception and a hurdled defender.

“We know there’s a great consistency there,” tight ends coach Tim Hinton said.

Redemption won’t come in the form of a block or big play for Heuerman. It’ll consist of doing what’s needed for the Buckeyes. It could be blocking, catching passes or leading. Ohio State is searching for dependable tight ends who are versatile enough to stretch defenses or do dirty work.

A 6-foot-5, 255-pound frame falls in line with being a gazelle that can deliver hits. But it wasn’t always work that way. Meyer and Hinton recalled, with irritation, what the first season in Columbus was like with Heuerman. There was a learning curve with the new offense, but any form of consistency was non-existent.  

Just two years later, the strides have been evident and immense. Hinton equated it to taking freshman coursework (101) and senior-level classes (400).

“Now you can really get that minute detail and then have more expectation of reading a defense, seeing the indicators, reading the blitz pattern,” he said. “Now they’re into the big picture. Their route running this spring [was] a lot better than it’s ever been.”

Offense is all about production, and determining the tight ends’ identity is still unsettled. Execution is the primary focus. Even if there are grand plans in regards to Heuerman and Vannett, they still must be completed properly. The loss of Carlos Hyde, Philly Brown and much of the offensive line could result in more looks for the tight ends.

You won’t see Heuerman complain. And if he’s called on to deliver a block, he’ll use his past as motivation.    

Said Hinton: “I’m not really concerned.” 


Comments Show All Comments

BierStube's picture

Missing a block and getting pinched at the Grown and Sexy are hardly in the same class of error.  There were a number of plays in the B1G championship that could have had a dramatic impact on the final score.  Was Jeff's mistake costly ... yes ... but that alone did not cost us the game.

"No matter where you go, there you are." B. Banzai

+4 HS
RonnyPBuckeye's picture

Shazier's personal foul getting them into field goal position. Roby knocking the ball out of the other DBs hands injuring himself in the process allowing MSU to kick a field goal after we took the lead.  Pitt Brown being Pitt Brown.  Evan Spencer dropping the big pass prior to that. Many things went wrong...

+2 HS
stcburn's picture

If we had a defense last year that 4th down play never would have been needed. Many other reasons to hang that loss on than that play.

+2 HS
TheShookster's picture

You know who's at fault for missing that block? Ryan Hamby.

He ain't even stretch doe!!

+5 HS
sdotfinn's picture

If there was one thing that Ryan Hamby excelled in, it was blocking.

Maurice Hall's TD run against _ichigan comes to mind in 2002.

Hamby also caught a big TD against Philip Rivers and NC State in 2003.

+1 HS
TheShookster's picture

But on a serious note, Heuerman could never be the villian. He reeled in smooth Jazz's game saving 2-point conversion toss. He shows up in every game. I'm a huge fan

He ain't even stretch doe!!

+2 HS
Mortc15's picture

One play surely doesn't win or lose a game. Mistakes and missed assignments happen. No one does (or should) blame that loss on him, or any 1 single player. 


cw823's picture

OR on the officiating.  Completely agree.  When you don't do enough to win, you lose.

2morrow's picture

Bad play call to begin with, 3rd and 2 - Hyde not even on the field. 4th and 2, Miller runs outside. MSU couldn't stop Hyde. Play call blew it more than that missed block.

GVerrilli92's picture

Let's not have this conversation again.

You make decisions based off of information, the coaches have access to the most information.

Not trying to be inconsiderate of your opinion, but that was not a bad playcall. The exact same thing could have happened to Hyde on a missed line block. MSU won the battle and subsequently the war.

Get 'em next time Jeff

I got a gray kitty, white kitty, tabby too, and a little orange guy who puts snakes in my shoes. Got mad MC skills, that leave ya struck, and I roll with my kitties and I'm hard as f*ck.

+2 HS
buckeyecountry's picture

Agree 100%, Hyde not getting the rock enough....sealed our fate.

THEOSUfan's picture

The great - and terrible - thing about football is that a successful play requires all 11 guys executing.  On that particular play, we could get more detailed and say everyone from the backside guard to the right sideline along with Miller and Hyde.  Jeff didn't get his job done.  It wasn't for a lack of effort or desire.  He's human.  Plus, those guys in green are on scholarship too.  But I don't get caught up in what the call was.  That play would have gotten 2 yards if it was executed properly.  It wasn't.  Congrats to Michigan State.

I agree with Stcburn.  Ohio State needed a defense that could limit an offense coached in part by JIM BOLLMAN to 23 points.  They didn't have that defense.  If they have that defense this fall, I don't think they will be in the position of having to make a 4th and 2 late in the game in order to win.

+1 HS
hit_the_couch's picture

With the Big Ten Championship Game hanging in the balance, national championship hopes on the line, Ohio State ran Braxton Miller to the right on fourth-and-2 against Michigan State. It appeared for a split second that Miller was going to reach the mark with nary a problem.

Then Heuerman missed a block.

He shouldn't think too hard on this; I think the strange game plan and odd play calling was one of the biggest culprits in that game.

And then I told her...i'm no weatherman, but tonight's forecast is calling for several inches!

DC-town's picture

Ouch...the JIM BOLEMAN blast- MSU is a solid team, tresselball 2.0.  the bucks didn't have a good game overall, but some of that team gets another shot this year.

i think we'll be ready this year, the o-line will need to bring it

'Piss excellence' -RB

DC-town's picture

Looks like lj Scott will be rocking green for the game

'Piss excellence' -RB

HotSauceCommittee's picture

One of my favorite Buckeyes.