Finding the right fit for your college football program isn't just about what happens on the field, but off it as well. Today, Ohio State added a key piece. How will that commitment impact the Buckeyes?
Ohio State landed a commitment this afternoon from a prospect with all the tools to become an elite tight end when Lindenhurst, New York, four-star Jeremy Ruckert picked the Buckeyes over finalists Michigan, Notre Dame and Wisconsin.
Let's take a look at what Ruckert — the No. 52 prospect overall in the Class of 2018 — brings to Columbus.
ON THE FIELD
Throw on the tape and it's easy to see why Ruckert is widely considered the top-rated tight end in the country. At 6-foot-6, 238-pounds, he's able to use his body as a shield to catch the ball against smaller cornerbacks and safeties. His speed — 4.7-seconds in the 40-yard dash; ability to high point the ball — 35.1-inch vertical jump; catch radius; and route-running creates matchup problems against linebackers across the middle of the field, too.
Ruckert, who mostly lined up at receiver in high school, is quick off the line and cuts extremely well for his size. He'll need to adjust to putting his hand in the dirt at the next level and add strength to be able to block defensive ends that are just as big or bigger than him, though.
Some recruiting analysts seemed to be concerned with the level of competition, or lack thereof, Ruckert faces at the high school level. His performance at The Opening Finals in Oregon earlier this month put those fears to rest, however.
"Being from Long Island, not many people are coming out of there," Ruckert said. "Everywhere I've camped, I've been one of the best players there. Now everybody's at my level."
He was the focal point of the Team Alpha Menace attack, though, and was named first-team all-offense after leading all tight ends in attendance with 21 receptions.
Along those same lines, Ruckert has also been featured heavily in the Lindenhurst offense. He's recorded 110 receptions for 1,659 yards and 12 touchdowns in his two-year varsity career with the Bulldogs, who reached the Suffolk County Division I semifinals during his junior season.
Ruckert, who has not yet decided if he will enroll early, will play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and the Polynesian Bowl in January 2018.
IN THE CLASS
Ruckert becomes the 15th member of Ohio State's Supreme '18 recruiting class, joining five-star defensive tackle Taron Vincent, five-star defensive end Brenton Cox, four-star quarterback Emory Jones, four-star running backs Jaelen Gill and Brian Snead, four-star offensive tackle Max Wray, four-star offensive guard Matthew Jones, four-star defensive end Andrew Chatfield, four-star linebackers Dallas Gant and Teradja Mitchell, four-star cornerback Sevyn Banks, four-star safeties Josh Proctor and Jaiden Woodbey and three-star running back Master Teague III.
It's been said the Buckeyes are looking to land two tight ends this cycle, but it's possible Ruckert is the only one in the fold come Signing Day. He was the staff's top target at the position, and landing him puts less pressure on them to find a complementing player.
Huber Heights Wayne four-star athlete and top target L'Christian "Blue" Smith, after months of saying he would only play wide receiver at the next level, has also been somewhat receptive of playing tight end if he continues to grow physically. Having that option with Smith makes it unlikely the staff chases anyone else of note at the position, though Texas four-star Mustapha Muhammad continues to say all the right things about his interest in Ohio State after he recently listed the Buckeyes among his top schools.
Other names to keep in mind in case the staff pushes for a second tight end later in the process include Cincinnati four-star commit Josh Whyle, LSU pledge Zach Sheffer and Virginia three-star James Mitchell.
Ohio State has a longstanding reputation of not throwing the ball to the tight end under head coach Urban Meyer. Some initially wondered whether that would be the downfall in the Buckeyes' pursuit of Ruckert, especially when comparing their usage to programs like Michigan and Notre Dame.
An underreported note, however, is that Ohio State has sent two tight ends to the NFL in the last three years — Jeff Heuerman to the Broncos in 2015 NFL Draft and Nick Vannett to the Seahawks in 2016. Current starter Marcus Baugh could join that list following the upcoming season, too. So while it may be reasonable to question Ohio State's usage of the tight end position, the Buckeyes have had no problem sending them to the league.
With new offensive coordinator and tight ends coach Kevin Wilson running the offense, most expect the position to have a greater role within the passing game. Keep in mind, he was Oklahoma's offensive coordinator when tight end and first-round pick Jermaine Gresham recorded 66 catches for 950 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2008.
Wilson signed a two-year deal this offseason, so he'll be around for at least Ruckert's freshman campaign.