Benji and Bennett: The Next Jeremy Ruckert and Luke Farrell Combo Could Already Be On Its Way to Columbus

By Zack Carpenter on March 21, 2021 at 8:40 am
Benji Gosnell, Bennett Christian
Benji Gosnell (Don Callahan/247Sports) and Bennett Christian (Rusty Mansell/247Sports)

Once Benji Gosnell joined Ohio State’s class on Nov. 4, the comparisons immediately started flowing in.

The Buckeyes already had locked down a commitment from Georgia’s Bennett Christian two months prior, almost to the day. Then they got to work on finding the second tight end to complement Christian in the class, and they landed on the North Carolinian in Gosnell.

Once Gosnell's commitment was solidified, some parallels came down like a waterfall. Did Ohio State just land its next Jeremy Ruckert and Luke Farrell?

After the fantastic production Ruckert and Farrell gave to the Buckeyes, that’s a high ceiling to reach. But based on Gosnell and Christian’s respective skillsets, what they still need to improve on and how well they balance each other out, those comparisons seem to line up perfectly and seem to be quite fair. And that’s exactly what each tight end aspires to give Ryan Day and Kevin Wilson’s program individually and collectively once they arrive in Columbus and over the next 3-5 years.

“We balance each other out,” Gosnell told Eleven Warriors this week. “Let’s be real, watching film, one person is better at one thing and one person is better at the other. But at Ohio State, I feel like we’ll definitely be balanced out. I think a year or two into the program, we’re gonna be a lot more even keeled. Maybe a bit like Luke and Jeremy. I mean, Luke and Jeremy could both block very well, and they were both very effective in the pass game. I haven’t talked with (Bennett) about it that much, but I feel like that’s kind of where we can lead it to down the road.”

Christian added: “I think we do a lot of the same stuff. I don’t really get to do as much as he does because I play in the Power-I offense, and I can’t control that. But I think we’re both really hard workers. He works really hard, I work really hard, and I think when we get up there we’re gonna bring that atmosphere up to Columbus – just compete really hard for the job. If I need to work on something that I know Benji already knows how to do, I might get that from him. Or if I might know something Benji might not know, and we’ll just teach each other and bring that hard work ethic up to Columbus.”

When Ruckert came to Ohio State, he was not great in the blocking game but was the highest-ranked tight end signee in program history. He came to Columbus as one of the most athletic and dynamic pass-catchers at the position the Buckeyes ever had. Gosnell is not on that level, but his talent as a pass catcher is one of the prime reasons Day and Wilson wanted so badly to bring him aboard though his blocking abilities need to be improved and refined.

Farrell, meanwhile, was the more polished blocker entering his Ohio State career but was not quite the receiver Ruckert was upon his arrival in Columbus. In a very similar fashion, Christian seems to match that same athletic profile – he will sign with the Buckeyes as the superior blocker but is not on par yet with Gosnell as a pass catcher.

However, when Christian was asked whether or not the comparison between Ruckert/Farrell and himself and Gosnell is something he liked, he pumped the brakes a bit. He doesn’t really want to be shoehorned into the mold of a past player.

“You know, honestly, I think we’ll be a great duo. But I wouldn’t wanna compare myself to someone like that because I wanna be my own player,” Christian said. “I just wanna be everything that I can be. I wanna be a combination of both of them and just be the best of both worlds and become my own player. I don’t really wanna have a title on my name. I wanna build my own brand and be my own player.

“I think we definitely can (be like that), but I just think we’ll be the best tight end duo in the nation. Whether that’s a comparison between Luke and Jeremy or Bennett and Benji which sounds good – or Benji and Bennett, same thing – that’s kind of what I wanna be. If we get compared to that, that’s fine. Obviously they’re amazing players in every way, but you’ve gotta build your own brand.”

Gosnell added: “I think we can balance each other out and complement each other really well. Hopefully I can learn something from him too because he’s a really good blocker. Just with the offense that he runs at his high school, he doesn’t really get to showcase his receiver skills that much, but I know they’re there. For me, at my high school I’m getting to showcase my blocking a little bit more this year. I feel like we can definitely do a good job together.”

Ruckert and Farrell had fantastic seasons in 2020 (to follow up a solid all-around campaign in 2019) with the production they gave in the pass game and run-blocking game. The Buckeyes used more 12 personnel (one running back, two tight ends) than they ever had before as Ryan Day continued to up the ante numbers-wise there. According to TruMedia, as pointed out by Bill Landis of The Athletic, the Buckeyes have used more 12 personnel in every season since Day and Kevin Wilson took over the offense:

  • 2 percent in 2017
  • 8 percent in 2018
  • 21 percent in 2019
  • 31 percent in 2020

Ohio State’s tight end room is vastly depleted experience-wise heading into the 2021 campaign, with Ruckert (351) the only returning player who saw more than 32 snaps this past fall. Farrell (377) is gone while Mitch Rossi (32) and Cade Stover (five) saw limited action and Joe Royer and Sam Hart have yet to play a down in college.

Those snap count numbers will surely increase in 2021 but by how much is not certain. With the Buckeyes’ unlimited talent at receiver – perhaps the program's strongest position group right now – that 31 percent usage of 12 personnel is virtually guaranteed to drop this season.

But Day and Wilson made it pretty clear, over the past two seasons especially, they would like to have two tight ends on the field at a high clip. They also seem to have proven that in the way they recruited, having purposely targeted two high-level players in Gosnell and Christian who bring the exact type of skillsets that can play off each other over the coming years.

“They never really talked about that, but I’m sure we will run the same type of packages like that,” Christian said when asked if Day and Wilson’s vision is to bring Gosnell and Christian into the same class so they can run more 12 personnel in the future. “They never said specifically, but I’m pretty sure that’s what it’s gonna be like.”

It won’t happen after one season and maybe not after two seasons, but that’s the type of ceiling this tandem could reach by year three and year four.

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