In a career full of stops and starts thus far, tight end Marcus Baugh finally seemed to start for good in 2015, positioning himself to have a breakout 2016. The Riverside, CA, native played in all 13 games this season, putting a troubled past in the rearview mirror. His statistics weren’t gaudy, but Ohio State doesn’t throw to the tight end often and Baugh’s blocking is what got him — and kept him — on the field this season.
The trouble in No. 85’s past has been well documented. Multiple busts for underage drinking nearly derailed Baugh’s Ohio State career before it began. He was arrested in July of 2013 for underage drinking and possession of a fake I.D. at 11th and High. That led to a redshirt freshman season for the 6-foot-5, 255-pound tight end with hands that are Downy-soft.
Another such incident in January of 2014 got him suspended indefinitely from the team and had him teetering on the brink of washing out of the Ohio State football program. In the end, Baugh was suspended for the first two games of the 2014 season for what Urban Meyer called “stuff.”
"Marcus then had some issues, he’s one foot in, one foot out right now," Meyer told reporters, awhile back.
Still, Meyer and Tight Ends Coach Tim Hinton stuck by the talented Californian. Baugh had to earn his way back into the good graces of the coaching staff. He did that. After his suspension in 2014, Baugh played 12 games during the Buckeyes’ national championship season, seeing time mostly on special teams. He played tight end in three games, scoring on a two-yard reception against Kent State on his first career reception. He played 18 plays — all on special teams — in the College Football Playoff wins over Alabama and Oregon. To earn the trust of the coaching staff enough to see time in such huge games, even if only on special teams, meant Baugh had finally turned the corner.
In 2015, Baugh stepped into Nick Vannett’s 2014 role as backup tight end. He was brought in mostly to block down on troublesome defensive ends and linebackers to aid the running game, the way Vannett had done in supporting Jeff Heuerman the season before.
Baugh caught only two passes in 2015, for 32 total yards. The first didn’t come until the Illinois game on Nov. 14, when he made a five-yard reception. The second was a big play in the Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s Day, when he burned Notre Dame for a 27-yard catch and run.
If Ohio State’s offensive trends continue, look for Baugh to step into Vannett’s starting spot in 2016 and he will probably put up similar modest receiving numbers while continuing the tradition of helping mash defenders to assist Buckeye running backs and quarterback J.T. Barrett in the rush game.
Vannett caught 19 passes in 2015 for 162 yards and didn’t score a touchdown. A year earlier, Heuerman finished the 2014 season with 17 receptions for 207 yards and two touchdowns. While those numbers are similar to Vannett’s 2015 marks, it’s noteworthy that Vannett also finished 2014 with 19 catches for 220 yards and five scores.
As the Buckeye coaching staff searches for a return to offensive balance in 2016, I expect Baugh to be part of that renaissance. He’ll probably be closer to 2014 Vannett next season than 2015 Vannett. Somewhere in the vicinity of 20 receptions with a few touchdowns and around 200 yards is a set of realistic targets for the redshirt junior-to-be.
Should someone emerge on the depth chart behind Baugh who can block well and complement him, the former four-star prospect could have a season more similar to Heuerman’s 2013 campaign, which saw the current Denver Bronco make 26 catches for 466 yards and four touchdowns.
Baugh’s main competition will probably be from Rashod Berry and A.J. Alexander. Both were freshmen in 2015 who will likely be redshirt freshmen in 2016. Baugh should be the clear-cut top dog on the depth chart this fall. With a more balanced offense and another year under his belt, he could become a very important piece of Ohio State’s offense in 2016 — if he can avoid the pitfalls that plagued him in his first year in Columbus.