The increased involvement of the tight ends in Ohio State’s passing offense lasted just one game.
In the Buckeyes’ season opener against Florida Atlantic, Jeremy Ruckert caught four passes for 38 yards and two touchdowns. In the Buckeyes’ games against Cincinnati and Indiana, no tight end has caught a single pass.
Neither Luke Farrell nor Rashod Berry, Ohio State’s two most experienced tight ends, has caught a single pass this year.
Considering the perennial preseason hype that was as strong as ever this year about Ohio State’s tight ends potentially catching more passes, they’d have reason to be frustrated about the lack of throws coming their way. But both of them said while meeting with the media on Wednesday that they are just happy to be playing a part in the Buckeyes’ success.
“We got a big win Saturday,” Farrell said. “I played well, graded out a champion, so I’m happy.”
Even though they didn’t catch any passes, both Farrell and Berry graded out as champions for their play in Ohio State’s 51-10 win over Indiana (Farrell also graded out as a champion for the Buckeyes’ previous game, a 42-0 win over Cincinnati).
There’s been plenty of playing time to go around for the tight ends; in each of the last two games, each of the Buckeyes’ top four tight ends – Farrell, Berry, Jeremy Ruckert and Jake Hausmann – have played at least 20 snaps. The Buckeyes have had multiple tight ends on the field for at least 22 offensive snaps in each of their first three games.
So even though they’ve been barely targeted in the passing game, Ohio State’s tight ends have reason to feel like they are important players in this year’s offense, as the Buckeyes have regularly chosen to put two of them on the field instead of a third wide receiver.
“Just because we’re not getting the ball doesn’t mean much,” Berry said. “It’s just how the game goes. When we’re out there, we just got to do our job and just do our 1/11th when we’re on the field and try to help.”
It doesn’t show up in the box score like a catch does, but one area where the tight ends have certainly made an impact for the Buckeyes so far this season has been as blockers in the running game. Ohio State has rushed for 271 yards per game and nearly six yards per carry through its first three games of the year, and while the running backs and offensive line might get most of the credit for that success publicly, the tight ends know they wouldn’t be in the game as much as they have been if they weren’t making a positive impact in that regard.
“Honestly, I think my run blocking has been off the charts, just really getting my footwork together, my hands inside and just really going down the field and dominating my man,” Berry said.
Although they haven’t had passes coming their way yet, the tight ends have still been running plenty of routes on passing plays too, and they believe their opportunities will come as the season progresses. More importantly, they believe they need to just keep doing their jobs to the best of their ability and be ready to take advantage when those opportunities do come their way.
“There are opportunities,” Farrell said. “Obviously we’re still in the pass game pretty consistently. It’s just what kind of look we get (from the opposing defense).”
“Just because we’re not getting the ball doesn’t mean much. It’s just how the game goes. When we’re out there, we just got to do our job and just do our 1/11th when we’re on the field and try to help.”– Rashod Berry on the tight ends' lack of catches
Farrell and Berry, who played the vast majority of snaps at tight end last season, have also now had to accept losing some of their snaps to Ruckert and Hausmann. They’re not upset about that either, though, because of the camaraderie in their position group and the belief that their teammates have proven they belong on the field.
“I’m not selfish. We’re all doing good,” Berry said. “I can see if somebody wasn’t doing as good, but we’re all doing good in practice. So it’s fair to split it four ways.”
Surely, all of the tight ends would like to make more plays as receivers as the season goes on, perhaps especially Berry, a fifth-year senior who hopes to be playing in the NFL at this time next year. He recognizes that his focus right now, though, needs to be doing on whatever he can to help the Buckeyes keep building on their 3-0 start rather than on his individual statistics.
“If I got frustrated, I would be selfish. And I’m a team player. So I can’t be selfish,” Berry said. “That would mess up my mindset, that would mess up my self-talk, and I just got to go out there and do what I can to help the team.”
Farrell also made it clear that he would not be making any complaints about the lack of passes in his direction.
“I’m not that kind of guy,” Farrell said. “If we do well as a team, I’m happy.”