There weren't many Buckeye fans watching Saturday's game earnestly expecting to see the I-formation and two touchdown passes thrown to tight ends, but it's likely some tight end prospects were.
This offseason, Ohio State and offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson told Cane Berrong – the top tight end in the 2021 class, currently committed to Notre Dame – that they planned to use multiple tight end sets and utilize the tight ends more in the passing game.
Presumably because this has been discussed before and never materialized, they invited Berrong to watch and see this season.
“Coach Wilson told me how they plan on using the tight ends this fall,” Berrong told Eleven Warriors in June. “They have two good ones in (junior) Rashod Berry and Jeremy Ruckert. He wants me to watch this fall how they’re used and come up for a game.”
Ohio State fans were understandably skeptical (I mean, just read the comments on this piece), but after one game, it looks like that promise may actually be kept this season.
The Buckeyes featured multiple tight ends on 26 of their 78 offensive plays on Saturday and two of Justin Fields' four touchdown passes went to a tight end. All three of Ohio State's healthy scholarship tight ends saw substantial first-team playing time.
Berrong – a strong pass-catching tight end – specifically mentioned Jeremy Ruckert a number of times when discussing what he hoped to see out of Ohio State's offense this season. And in game one, Ruckert became the first Buckeye tight end in five years to catch two touchdown passes in a single game, and had the team's second-most receptions.
Now, before we get ahead of ourselves, you'll never see the I-formation or 12 personnel become the team's base offense – at least not as long as Ryan Day is the head coach. But Saturday's performance sent a message that there is a prominent role for tight ends in Ohio State's passing attack. And Ryan Day said those multiple tight end packages are here to stay, at least in some capacity.
"I really think it's important for us to have both identities, so we're trying to build that identity as we go," Day said. "It's not just going to happen overnight, but I think our ability to go in and out over those two different things are going to be really good."
As for Berrong, there's no guarantee this is enough to pull him towards Ohio State as he remains committed to Notre Dame.
However, if the Buckeyes were making this pitch to him, they've almost certainly been pitching it to other tight ends as well. And they surely liked what they saw.