Since he arrived in Columbus as a four-star recruit in 2016, Luke Farrell’s first two seasons at Ohio State have been forgettable.
After redshirting his first year on campus, Farrell played only 107 total offensive snaps last year – mostly as a run blocker in games that were already decided – and finished his first playing season with just two catches for 19 yards.
Going into his third year at Ohio State, however, Farrell appears to have a real shot at earning significant playing time and making a noteworthy impact for the Buckeyes offense this year.
While Farrell was listed on Ohio State’s published depth chart as a co-backup tight end all of last season, most of his playing time came early in the year, as Marcus Baugh played the lion’s share of tight end snaps and Rashod Berry played most of the rest.
Farrell’s chances of climbing the depth chart appear to be in good shape, though, after Ohio State coach Urban Meyer named Farrell this past week as one of the Buckeyes who has made a big leap in his development this spring.
"Luke Farrell graded a champion," Meyer said Monday, referencing the Buckeyes’ scrimmage two Fridays ago in which Meyer said the defense otherwise outperformed the offense. "He's had as good a week as he's ever had."
A 6-foot-6, 250-pound tight end from Perry, Ohio, Farrell appears to have all the physical tools to be an impact player for the Buckeyes. Farrell has high-end athleticism to go along with his size; according to last year’s “Iron Buckeye Excellence” Board inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, Farrell has recorded a 35.5-inch vertical jump. He’s also shown his athleticism on the basketball court, as seen last year when the Buckeyes held an offseason dunk contest:
Farrell hasn’t had much opportunity to showcase his athleticism for the Buckeyes in game action yet, but it sounds like he’s getting closer.
Farrell didn’t play much on special teams last season, which might actually be a reason why he didn’t play more on offense, as Meyer expects his players to earn their stripes on special teams first before playing regularly on offense or defense. Farrell appears to be working hard on his special teams this spring, though, even spending time after one recent practice working on his long snapping – a role in which he could potentially serve as Liam McCullough’s backup for road games, for which walk-on backup long snappers don’t travel, and give him another skill that could increase his value if he emerges as an NFL prospect over the next few years.
Meanwhile, the depth chart at tight end is open for Farrell to earn a spot on the two-deep and potentially even push for a spot in the starting lineup.
With Baugh on his way on the NFL, Berry is expected to be the Buckeyes’ starting tight end this year, as he perhaps brings an even more intriguing combination of size and athleticism to the position. But Berry, too, remains largely unproven, catching just six passes for 100 yards and two touchdowns last season and showing some warts as a run blocker. So depending on how Berry develops this spring and continues to develop in fall camp, Farrell could push him for his spot in the lineup.
Incoming freshman Jeremy Ruckert has the talent to immediately earn a spot on the two-deep when he arrives this summer – Meyer has called Ruckert “the best tight end prospect” he’s ever recruited – but with two years already in the program, Farrell is likely to have a leg up on Ruckert going into fall camp if he can continue to impress his coaches with his progress.
Fellow third-year sophomore Jake Hausmann, who was actually a more highly ranked four-star tight end over Farrell in the recruiting class of 2016, could also have a shot to earn a spot on the two-deep at the position. Given that Hausmann played only nine total snaps last season, however, and that Farrell has been singled out for his progress this spring, it would appear that Farrell factors ahead of Hausmann in the pecking order at this point.
Whether Ohio State will actually get its tight ends consistently involved in the passing game this season is another question entirely, and that could determine how big an impact Farrell is ultimately able to make. But it would appear that Farrell’s opportunity to earn a significant role in the Buckeyes’ offense is right in front of him, and with Ruckert’s potential to be a star for the next three years right behind him, this might be Farrell’s best opportunity.