It was a glorious October Saturday on the road against a ranked opponent.
Ohio State's tight end enthusiasts remember that fateful afternoon in 2011 with absolute clarity, one in which a beleaguered, scandal-plagued program under the guidance of an interim coach navigated its way through the infamous Champaign Wind Tunnel™ and safely reached the summit of Victory
Mountain Plain long before time expired.
The Buckeyes won on a day in which the long-ignored, underutilized and under-appreciated tight end position was responsible for 100% of their completed passes. A perfect game! DeVier Posey, Philly Brown, Devin Smith and Chris Fields were collectively held without a single catch. That afternoon, in a winning effort, every pass was hauled in by Jake Stoneburner.
...which is to say he was the recipient of the Buckeyes' only completion. Stoney had all 17 receiving yards on the afternoon; a touchdown that gave Ohio State its final points in a 17-7 win which served as the unofficial beginning of the end for the Ron Zook era.
Stoneburner was the team's leading receiver that day, as a tight end. It hasn't happened since. Over the course of the century, spanning John Cooper, Jim Tressel, Luke Fickell and Urban Meyer (apologies to Ryan Day's three-game stint) tight end production has been remarkably consistent and consistently unremarkable.
|YEAR||TEAM LEADING RECEIVER||REC||YARDS||LEADING TIGHT END||REC||YARDS|
|2018||Parris Campbell||90||1063||Luke Farrell (9th)||20||205|
|2017||K.J. Hill||56||549||Marcus Baugh (4th)||28||304|
|2016||Curtis Samuel||74||865||Marcus Baugh (4th)||24||269|
|2015||Michael Thomas||56||781||Nick Vannett (6th)||19||162|
|2014||Michael Thomas||54||799||Nick Vannett (7th)||19||220|
|2013||Philly Brown||63||771||Jeff Heuerman (3rd)||26||466|
|2012||Philly Brown||60||669||Jake Stoneburner (3rd)||16||269|
|2011||Devin Smith & Philly Brown||14||294/205||Jake Stoneburner (T-1)||14||193|
|2010||Dane Sanzenbacher||55||948||Jake Stoneburner (4th)||21||222|
|2009||DeVier Posey||60||828||Jake Ballard (5th)||14||150|
|2008||Brian Robiskie||42||535||Brandon Smith (7th)||8||79|
|2007||Brian Robiskie||55||935||Rory Nichol (4th)||16||84|
|2006||Ted Ginn Jr||59||781||Rory Nichol (6th)||13||151|
|2005||Santonio Holmes||55||977||Ryan Hamby (6th)||9||85|
|2004||Santonio Holmes||55||769||Ryan Hamby (5th)||16||178|
|2003||Michael Jenkins||55||834||Ben Hartsock (2nd)||33||290|
|2002||Michael Jenkins||61||1076||Ben Hartsock (3rd)||17||137|
|2001||Michael Jenkins||41||836||Darnell Sanders (3rd)||13||141|
|2000||Ken-Yon Rambo||53||794||Darnell Sanders (2nd)||23||270|
|AVERAGE||AVERAGE TEAM LEADER||56||795||AVERAGE TE LEADER (4.5th)||18||204|
- Ohio State tight ends are reliably the offense's 4th or 5th passing option.
- Zone Six's abrupt emergence of options in 2018 overwhelmed TE production.
- Only Ben Hartsock (2003) has caught more than 30 balls in a season.
- Marcus Baugh (2017) owns the only 300-400 yard receiving season.
- Jeff Heuerman (2013) owns the only 400+ yard receiving season.
- Don't spend too much time looking at 2011 or you'll end up in a sanitarium.
By comparison, Iowa's T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant combined for 88 receptions and 1279 yards last season alone. Kirk Ferentz has a different offensive philosophy, to say the least - but his TE development and utilization gives some Ohio State position envy. Over the span charted above, Ohio State has 14 1st place finishes in the conference or its division. Iowa has two. False equivalence, sure. Personally I'm more envious of Iowa's above-average defense.
the tight ends still have the potential to provide a significant spark to Ohio State’s offense.
...should look a lot like the one we'll publish this time around, which looks like the same spring synopsis since John Cooper's tenure was winding down at the turn of the century. They'll always have the potential. The roster has never been short of towering, pass-catching gladiators who generally end up sealing off edges and running lanes for their smaller, faster teammates.
Rashod Berry is pictured at the top catching a touchdown in the Rose Bowl, his ninth and final grab of the season. He finished the game with one catch for one yard and that score. Berry returns along with Jeremy Ruckert, an imposing twosome with four soft hands that will present daunting matchup challenges for back sevens on paper, but whose primary contributions will end up being The Guy Behind The Guy - or in front of the guy depending on the play.
They're two veterans who will bolster an offensive line with a whole bunch of new starters. And that's exactly where you should want them to contribute, despite how enticing it may seem for them to abuse defenses in the seam.