Signing day is less than two weeks away, and while the Buckeyes currently hold the No. 1 spot in the team rankings, they continue to battle Georgia in what should be a close race for the 2018 recruiting crown.
Ohio State's class features a pair of five-stars and a whopping 19 four-star commitments/signees. As with any star-studded class, there's a lot to be excited about. There are nine early enrollees already on campus and the rest will arrive this summer. Last season, it was J.K. Dobbins who got settled in a little early and made an impact as a true freshman. The Texan recorded over 1,500 yards from scrimmage and found the end zone eight times.
For 2018, things will likely play out much differently, and it's tough to imagine anyone having quite the impact that Dobbins did. Ohio State doesn't typically use the tight end as much as some other programs, but with a new starter under center, the offense is likely going to look a bit different. Marcus Baugh caught 28 passes for 304 yards and five scores a season ago, and now Urban Meyer and Kevin Wilson have to find a replacement.
The country's No. 2 tight end prospect will head to Columbus this summer, and despite not enrolling early, Jeremy Ruckert could see the field early and often as a true freshman. The tight end room will be a talented but unproven one for the Buckeye offense.
Luke Farrell and Jake Hausmann will both be redshirt sophomores, and the duo has combined for just two catches thus far in their careers. Rashod Berry caught six passes and scored twice in 2017, and many are projecting the redshirt junior as the new starter.
Berry is a bit of a utility player who also has experience at defensive end. With Tyquan Lewis, Jalyn Holmes, and Sam Hubbard all headed to the National Football League, there's a chance that he could make the switch back to the defensive line.
Ruckert, however, is considered by some outlets to be the best tight end in the country, and his performances at The Opening and the high school all-star games have been exceptional. At 6-foot-6 and 238 pounds, the Lindenhurst, New York native was the one that Ohio State wanted throughout the entire cycle.
On Dec. 20 Urban Meyer discussed the first ever early signing period, and he made it perfectly clear how he feels about one of the Buckeyes' newest weapons.
“I think Jeremy Ruckert might be the best tight end prospect that I’ve ever seen and recruited. His skill set is ridiculous. Now it’s a question of getting him ready to play.”
As a senior, he totaled 1,094 receiving yards and 13 scores while leading Lindenhurst High School to the Long Island Championship. Ruckert was named by Gatorade as New York's player of the year. He was an Army All-American and also played in last weekend's Polynesian Bowl where he had a game-high four receptions and was listed as one of the top performers.
Even with the three others likely ahead of him to start out, it's tough to imagine a redshirt season. He's a player unlike any that Meyer has had thus far in Columbus and is reminiscent of former Penn State star Mike Gesicki. As someone who played a lot of receiver in high school, one of the biggest things for Ruckert will be picking up on Ohio State's blocking schemes. If he can figure that out, then Berry, Hausmann, and Farrell may struggle to hold off the talented newcomer.
Ruckert has likely already captured the hearts of many fans. He chose Ohio State over Jim Harbaugh's Wolverines, and last week he discussed his thoughts on the rivalry by stating that he doesn't understand how it's a rivalry at all due to the Buckeyes' dominance.
With a new quarterback at the helm and all of its top receivers coming back, Ohio State's passing attack should look very different in 2018. The race for the starting tight end spot could be one of the more intriguing battles, and Jeremy Ruckert may be right in the thick of it.