Ohio State’s 2018 roster is loaded with talent, per usual, but how does it compare to the Buckeyes’ previous teams since Urban Meyer has arrived in Columbus?
Here at Eleven Warriors, we’ve been taking a position-by-position look at how the Buckeyes’ current roster stacks up with Ohio State’s rosters from Meyer’s first six seasons as head coach.
Next, we take a look at the tight end position, where the Buckeyes haven’t had a ton of production in the Meyer era, but have nonetheless had plenty of talented players, including several who have gone on to play in the NFL.
Ohio State’s scholarship numbers at the tight end position are down from last season after Marcus Baugh exhausted his eligibility, A.J. Alexander’s career came to an end due to a knee injury and Kierre Hawkins transferred to Youngstown State. The Buckeyes’ 2018 recruiting class, meanwhile, includes only one tight end in Jeremy Ruckert.
But considering that Ruckert was a highly touted four-star recruit who Meyer has said "might be the best tight end" that he has ever recruited, this year’s Buckeyes’ tight end unit could still have enough talent to be one of Meyer’s best groups at the position yet in Columbus.
How do the seemingly low numbers on the Buckeyes’ tight end roster this year, as well as the talent of the tight ends they do have, compare to what Meyer has had in his first six years at Ohio State? We can evaluate by taking a look back at each of Ohio State’s tight end rosters since 2012.
Rosters for each season are listed below with each player’s year of eligibility, number of recruiting stars (based on 247Sports’ composite rankings) and how many games they had appeared in and started going into each respective season, with analysis to follow on how this year’s group stacks up with the rest.
Note: Players who made position switches are only listed for the years on which they were listed as tight ends on Ohio State’s roster.
Jake Stoneburner, Redshirt Senior (★★★★) – 36 games, 15 starts
Jeff Heuerman, Sophomore (★★★) – 10 games
Nick Vannett, Redshirt Freshman (★★★★)
Blake Thomas, Freshman (★★★)
Ryan Carter, Freshman (Walk-on)
Jeff Heuerman, Junior (★★★) – 22 games, 9 starts
J.T. Moore, Redshirt Junior (★★★) – 17 games, 6 starts (as DE)
Nick Vannett, Redshirt Sophomore (★★★★) – 12 games, 2 starts
Marcus Baugh, Freshman (★★★★)
Devin Hill, Junior (Walk-on)
Charles Kinzig, Junior (Walk-on)
Jeff Heuerman, Senior (★★★) – 36 games, 23 starts
Nick Vannett, Redshirt Junior (★★★★) – 25 games, 2 starts
Marcus Baugh, Redshirt Freshman (★★★★)
Devin Hill, Senior (Walk-on) – 1 game
Chris Rock, Redshirt Junior (Walk-on) – 1 game (as DE)
Guy Ferrelli, Freshman (Walk-on)
Nick Vannett, Redshirt Senior (★★★★) – 40 games, 3 starts
Marcus Baugh, Redshirt Sophomore (★★★★) – 12 games
A.J. Alexander, Freshman (★★★)
Rashod Berry, Freshman (★★★)
Guy Ferrelli, Sophomore (Walk-on)
Derrick Malone, Freshman (Walk-on)
Philip Silverman, Freshman (Walk-on)
Marcus Baugh, Redshirt Junior (★★★★) – 25 games, 4 starts
A.J. Alexander, Redshirt Freshman (★★★)
Luke Farrell, Freshman (★★★★)
Jake Hausmann, Freshman (★★★★)
Kierre Hawkins, Freshman (★★★★)
Chase Hounshell, Graduate Transfer (Walk-on)
Guy Ferrelli, Senior (Walk-on)
Derrick Malone, Sophomore (Walk-on)
Brock Davin, Freshman (Walk-on)
Marcus Baugh, Redshirt Senior (★★★★) – 38 games, 17 starts
Rashod Berry, Redshirt Sophomore (★★★) – 10 games (as DE)
A.J. Alexander, Redshirt Sophomore (★★★) – 13 games, 1 start
Luke Farrell, Redshirt Freshman (★★★★)
Jake Hausmann, Redshirt Freshman (★★★★)
Kierre Hawkins, Redshirt Freshman (★★★★)
Derrick Malone, Junior (Walk-on)
Brock Davin, Sophomore (Walk-on)
Rashod Berry, Redshirt Junior (★★★) – 24 games (14 as TE)
Luke Farrell, Redshirt Sophomore (★★★★) – 8 games
Jake Hausmann, Redshirt Sophomore (★★★★) – 3 games
Jeremy Ruckert, Freshman (★★★★)
Derrick Malone, Senior (Walk-on) – 1 game
Tate Duarte, Senior (Walk-on)
Brock Davin, Junior (Walk-on)
Overview: While Ohio State would probably like to have at least one more scholarship tight end on this year’s roster, 2016 and 2017 are the only previous seasons in which Meyer’s Buckeyes have had more than four tight ends, putting this year’s roster numbers at the position right around average.
The ends of Alexander and Hawkins’ Ohio State careers shouldn’t have come as big surprises, considering that neither played a snap in 2017, so the Buckeyes could have recruited more aggressively for another tight end if they felt a strong need for more numbers at the position. Instead, however, the Buckeyes went with Ruckert as their only tight end for the 2018 class (though defensive end recruit Alex Williams has been mentioned as a potential candidate to convert to tight end).
Beyond the overall numbers, the other thing that stands out about this year’s tight end roster is the lack of experience, as none of them have ever started a game – marking the first time Meyer has entered a season in Columbus without a tight end with any starting experience. Furthermore, none of them had even played in a collegiate game at tight end before last season, and none of them played more than 215 snaps (Rashod Berry) in 2017.
With that being said, three of Ohio State’s four scholarship tight ends were four-star recruits, and the other – Berry – might be one of the most physically gifted players on the entire team. Farrell made a big impression on Ohio State’s coaches this spring, enough to emerge as the starting tight end for the upcoming season, while Ruckert is hyped as a potential immediate-impact player.
To this point, the Buckeyes’ strongest tight end group of the Meyer era was the one that took the field during the 2014 national championship season, when Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett both played regularly and Marcus Baugh also saw playing time.
Considering that even those tight ends only combined for 37 catches for 429 yards and eight touchdowns that season, however, the bar still remains relatively low – at least compared to other positions on Ohio State’s roster in the Meyer era – for a new group at the position to come in and surpass its predecessors.
Given that this year’s Ohio State tight end roster is unproven, reasonable expectations for the group should probably be kept low. With all four scholarship tight ends on the roster still have at least two remaining seasons of eligibility, however, the group has real potential to make a big impact over the next two to four years.