Each offseason, Ohio State fans wonder if the next season will be one in which the program finally uses the tight end position as an essential part of the offense.
However, for the first time in several years, that question may not have been pondered from January to August. That's because, for the first time in several years, the Buckeyes looked to their tight ends more frequently in the passing game, specifically Cade Stover, for offensive production in 2022.
In 13 appearances last season, Stover recorded 36 receptions for 406 yards and six touchdowns. It was the most productive season for an Ohio State tight end in 26 years, dating back to when Rickey Dudley collected 35 receptions for 575 yards in 1995. Because of his success, Stover finished the season as a Mackey Award semifinalist and will start 2023 on the Mackey Award watch list.
Behind Stover, veterans Gee Scott Jr. and Joe Royer and true freshman Jelani Thurman will provide depth as the Buckeyes’ remaining scholarship tight ends. Ohio State tight ends coach Keenan Bailey said Wednesday that he is pleased with the team's experience and talent at the position after almost three weeks of preseason camp, and he hopes his players will improve as the season continues.
“We do these summer workouts, and Coach Mick (Marotti) ranks players,“ Bailey said inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. “The (best tier) is gold. Those are guys when we want to hit all of our goals, we need those guys to rely on – and I had four in my room. We have guys I think I can rely on in all capacities.”
Bailey was one of four Buckeyes to meet with the media at the WHAC on Wednesday, as Stover, Scott and Royer also met with reporters. Below are videos from each of their press conferences and bullet-point recaps of what each Ohio State coach and player said after the team's practice session.
- Bailey said Scott has been "awesome" this offseason for the Buckeyes. "Gee has been great. This is the best version of Gee since I started recruiting him as a receiver out of Seattle. He's getting better every day, and if we keep going, I think Gee is gonna be very proud of how far he has come."
- Bailey on how he hopes to develop the tight end position at Ohio State: "I want to go find the best tight ends in the country out of high school. I want to bring them in. I want to develop the heck out of them, and I want them on the field as fast as they can get on the field."
- Bailey said Royer looked great in practice on Wednesday. He mentioned that Royer caught a touchdown pass on one play and then perfectly blocked a defensive back on the next play. Still, Bailey wants to see more consistency from Royer for the rest of preseason camp: "He has to keep stacking days. When this unit is at full force, I think we are gonna be pretty dangerous."
- Bailey said he feels comfortable with having multiple tight ends on the field at the same time. However, he did not reveal who those players would be besides Stover: "I have guys I think I can rely on in all capacities."
- On Jelani Thurman: "We treat him like an upperclassman." Bailey said he wants Thurman to continue to learn the whats, hows and whys of the position regarding pass-catching and blocking. "He's gonna keep developing."
- Bailey said he feels good about where Ohio State is at depth-wise in the tight room. He hopes to utilize that depth throughout the season to save Stover's legs and keep him fresh from Game 1 to Game 12 this season. "This team deserves, and this team needs Cade at his best later in the year."
- On Kyle McCord and Devin Brown: "I think both of those guys are getting better every day. ... Coach Day likes to say, 'Make the routine plays routinely.' With our weapons, if you go out and do that, you'll be in good shape."
- On Joe Royer: “Joe is kind of like the Jell-O in the room. He always has a smile on his face and is super happy. He’s a great culture guy and is a talented athlete. He’ll be a great player for us.”
- On the benefit of having him and Joe line up together: “I think it would be really good. I do. We’re really close and he’s one of my best friends here. I’m always pulling for that kid and he’s always pulling for me. I think he’ll be really good for us.”
- On finding the identity of Ohio State’s offense in fall camp: “It’s a little tough right now, especially that the defense knows everything we’re doing at this point. That makes it a little tougher on us. But it’s good. We’ve still got some figuring out to do. I can’t tell you what our go-to pitch will be, but whatever it is, we’ll do well at it and take it with stride.”
- Asked if he would wear the Block O if he was selected, Stover responded “I don’t know man, do you have a choice?” He later said he’d wear it if selected because it would be “pretty cool.” Stover said if he had a vote, he’d vote for (OSU Director of Football Relations) Tim Hinton to wear it on the sidelines.
- On Keenan Bailey: “We spend more time together now (than last year), but before he was a tight ends coach, that’s who I spent the most time with in this place. Super smart guy. He’s the guy you want to go to bat for no matter what.”
Gee Scott Jr.
- When asked what it means to receive compliments from Ryan Day at the head coach's press conference earlier this week, Scott said he is thankful for the recognition. Scott said he has spent the offseason treating each day as a new opportunity for improvement. "I don't think I've done anything crazy spectacular. I've shown up every day. I have been consistent. I have been the best version of myself."
- On what role he expects to play for Ohio State in 2023: "Whatever the team has for me. It's easy to look ahead to the expectations of the year, (but) I am where my feet are at. The same way I showed up today, I will be here tomorrow and give everything that I have. Whatever happens in the season is gonna happen in the season."
- Scott said he has strived to achieve uniformity across his mind, body and soul this offseason. "I think one thing that changed for me (this offseason) that has been huge is really taking a big step in my faith. I think all three came together and became one. ... My mind body and soul truly became one. I feel great. I feel great right now."
- Scott said he has dealt with several hardships in his Ohio State career, but as he has deepened in his faith, he has had "a better understanding when those hard days come."
- Scott said it was an honor to graduate from Ohio State this summer. "It is a cool achievement. Nobody can ever take that away from me. Regardless of what happens, I am an Ohio State graduate." Scott said he will continue to take classes at the university this year (and possibly in future years) as he works toward another degree as a Buckeye.
- After missing a couple of practices due to injury, Royer said he is “feeling good” now and back practicing.
- Royer says he now weighs 255 pounds, a 12-pound gain from the end of last season when he weighed 243. That’s made Royer stronger as a blocker: “I never really realized how much 10 pounds can make a difference, but I feel it.”
- On Stover: “There’s not a better guy than Cade. Not a better role model for the younger guys and still me, I look up to him in many ways. Hardest worker on the team, does everything right. If you want to have a chance of playing football and being successful, just look at what he does and try to mimic it.”
- Royer said he wasn’t sure if he wanted to even return to play last season after his mother died. He says he still thinks about her all the time, but that he’s received great support from the team. “It was a rough year, man. I’ll just put it that way, it was not a good year for me. But you know, I just kind of build from it, learn from it.”
- Royer said he thinks he has the best hair on the team. “It’s getting a little long right now, I gotta cut it before the season, but yeah.”
- Royer recalled trying to block against Zach Harrison in one of his first practices at Ohio State after playing wide receiver in high school: “We went back the wrong way about 10 yards and I was like ’Holy shit, what am I doing?’” He feels much stronger now that he’s entering his fourth year as an Ohio State tight end.