Not very many position battles were decided this spring, and many competitions for spots in Ohio State's starting lineup figure to carry into fall camp.
At tight end, however, there appears to be one player that has separated himself from the rest of the pack.
Redshirt sophomore Luke Farrell came to Ohio State as one of three tight end recruits in the 2016 cycle for the Buckeyes, and already behind the likes of Marcus Baugh and A.J. Alexander, Farrell's battle for playing time when he arrived on campus proved to be difficult. However, after redshirting his first year as a Buckeye, Farrell put himself in position for at least garbage time reps, earning a pair of catches in 2017.
Farrell entered the spring as what many thought would be the backup tight end to Rashod Berry, but after Ohio State's Spring Game, Urban Meyer said Farrell was the Buckeyes' starting tight end heading into the summer.
"As we finish spring practice, he will be the starting tight end at Ohio State. He had a really good spring. That's as of now. I am not making him the starter (when the season starts), but he has earned that right so we popped him out," Meyer said. "Jake Hausmann has gotten better as well. Rashod Berry suffered two stingers the other day, that's why he did not play."
Farrell has earned that right to be called Ohio State's starting tight end because of his all-around game, position coach and co-offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said Wednesday.
"He’s gotten strong. We’re talking here’s a tall guy and I think he did 225 (on the bench press) 21 or 22 reps. He plays in a much better football position. I think initially he can be at the point of attack as good a blocker or maybe better than Marcus was a year ago," Wilson said. "I don’t know if he’ll flash on some of those pass plays where Marcus would hurdle over somebody. And not that Luke’s not athletic, but Marcus was a very, very good pass receiver. I think Luke Farrell is going to be very, very complete and competent."
One knock on Ohio State's offense in recent years is that the tight end never seems to produce many results in the passing game. The best statistical season a tight end has had in Meyer's time with the Buckeyes came in 2013, when Jeff Heuerman caught 26 passes for 466 yards and four scores. Marcus Baugh topped Heuerman in receptions and touchdowns by one in both categories in 2017, but collected just 304 yards in the air.
Wilson said that Farrell won't blow anyone away with his athleticism like Baugh did at times, but added that the Perry High School product should be a reliable target for Ohio State in 2018 and a stellar run blocker.
“He’s pretty good in the passing game, it’s just Marcus was a very athletic and natural receiving tight end. I think Jeremy Ruckert can be a very natural, just naturally fluid," Wilson said of Ohio State's incoming freshman. "Marcus could sometimes run routes and you thought it was a wide receiver if you didn’t know who was who when he’d put his toe in the ground. So Luke is not a poor receiver, that was just Marcus’s definite strength. I think with Marcus having a shoulder injury, I think Luke’s going to be stronger."
According to Wilson, Farrell has set the bar high for himself this offseason, wanting to take his game to another level instead of just being satisfied with being the starting tight end at Ohio State.
"Coach (Meyer) gives us a graph, then he wants guys to say, ‘You know, here’s your starting point and here’s your goal. Where are you?’ And most of my guys rated themselves along the path making progress," Wilson said. "His journey is where he wants to get to, and he thinks he’s barely getting started. I actually shared that with our group and that’s why I’m sharing it with you. I go, ‘I think this is cool. Here’s a guy that had a really good spring and is a really good player, and he thinks he’s a long way from where he wants to go.’ I go, ‘Think about that mindset that he’s got.’ And that’s why I think he’s developing.
"Because I do think he’s driven. I do think he has talent. But I think he has a goal he’s working to get and he’s working very hard. He had a great spring.”