In the eyes of those who determine such things, Rashod Berry didn't "officially" become a member of the Ohio State football team until 10 months ago. Both he and running back Demario McCall lost the black stripes from their helmets after the final practice of training camp ahead of the 2016 season.
“Since I got here, I've been down, going through adversity and everything,” Berry, then wearing No. 13, said in the video the program sent out on Urban Meyer's Twitter account showing Jalyn Holmes and Curtis Samuel removing the stripes. “Ever since I went to the defensive side, just gained momentum and just kept going up and up.”
Well, Berry's college football path could be experiencing another detour.
On Friday at the Ohio State Job Fair, Meyer mentioned that he and his staff are "looking at Rashod Berry a little bit" to play tight end this fall after backup A.J. Alexander was lost for the season following a knee injury he suffered playing basketball. The 6-foot-4, 250-pound Berry started playing tight end (and wore No. 24, as seen in the photo above) at Ohio State but then switched to the other side of the ball to work with Larry Johnson on the defensive line.
As a result, it took him a while to lose that black stripe. Berry signed with Ohio State in February 2015, a 3-star prospect from Lorain Digital High School — but his potential switch back to offense could increase the ceiling of Kevin Wilson's position group.
Marcus Baugh is the starting tight end, a fifth-year senior, and a trio of redshirt freshman are left with Alexander out. But Meyer and Co. obviously don't feel as comfortable as they should if they are thinking about making Berry swap positions again.
“I think we put him at tight end, but we’ll see what happens,” Meyer said of Berry on national signing day 2015. “We didn’t know quite what we were going to do with our man Sam Hubbard because his body kept changing and all that.”
Hubbard is the poster child for position switches at Ohio State. A freak athlete himself, Hubbard famously played lacrosse at Archbishop Moeller High School in Cincinnati. Meyer found him on the dodgeball court and now is one of Ohio State's two starting defensive ends after he played safety for the Crusaders.
The Buckeyes had Hubbard practicing everywhere from tight end and linebacker before finally settling in at defensive end as he morphed into his current 6-foot-5, 265-pound frame. Now, Hubbard is one of the top players at his position in the conference, has 10 career sacks and earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors last season.
Is Berry destined for a similar path? Probably not, and Meyer casually saying Friday that he could play tight end this year is more an indictment on the young guys at the spot than anything. But Berry is a monster, has great hands after being a force on the basketball court in high school and told our Tim Shoemaker in May 2015 after a high school all-star game that he would rather play offense. That came after his coaches put him at defensive end and he rushed the passer all afternoon.
“To be honest, I didn’t want to, but I did it,” he said then about playing defense. “I’m not going to complain about it and I just wanted to have fun and enjoy myself.”
It appeared he enjoyed himself during the team's impromptu dunk contest on March 1 to close winter workouts. Berry didn't win the contest (Malik Harrison did) but he still cradled the ball and threw it down like Chicago Bulls legend and Hall of Famer Michael Jordan used to in the 80s.
As D.J. and the team's Twitter so aptly noted, a defensive lineman shouldn't be able to do this:
That might need to be edited to say "tight end" if Berry moves back to offense, where his heart rested when he came out of high school. It will take time but it is clear the Buckeyes are trying to find more capable bodies at the position with Wilson as offensive coordinator and tight ends coach.
Alexander's injury it a significant hit to what Meyer called the team's "most improved" group during spring practice. Branden Bowen came in and served as a blocking tight end a few times last season, notably during Ohio State's win against Northwestern.
Jake Hausmann, Luke Farrell and Kierre Hawkins all also have an opportunity with one of two men in front of them on the depth chart being out for the season. The latter wasn't seen much during spring practice because Meyer said he was "taking care of some academic stuff" but he did participate in the job fair on Friday.
But since Meyer singled Berry out as a potential replacement for Alexander and with Ohio State's defensive front already loaded across the board for the 2017 season, maybe the redshirt sophomore that dunked over all kinds of poor souls in high school is the answer.
If not, Ohio State will gladly take his production on the kickoff team. In 10 games last season, Berry raced down the field and recorded seven tackles (four solo) despite oftentimes being the biggest player on the unit.
“I really like this kid, I like his family,” Meyer said in February 2015. “(Former Ohio State running backs coach Stan Drayton) thinks he’s one of the stars of this class.”
Time will tell if that stardom is realized in 2017 at tight end or elsewhere.