Cade Stover Happy He Made Move to Tight End at Ohio State, Confident in His Blocking Ability Entering NFL Career

By Dan Hope on February 29, 2024 at 5:49 pm
Cade Stover

Four years after he initially became a tight end at Ohio State, Cade Stover is still getting questions about position changes.

During his interview session Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine, Stover was asked multiple times if he would be open to moving back to the defensive side of the ball. Stover said he’d be willing to line up wherever an NFL team asks him to.

“I'm just there to help whatever you need to win a ballgame,” Stover said.

But Stover no longer has any reservations about the position change he made going into his second year as a Buckeye. While Stover briefly moved to linebacker at the end of the 2021 season and was initially planning to stay there entering the 2022 season, saying at the time he had missed playing defense “every day,” he wants NFL teams to know he’s now firmly committed to playing tight end for the long haul.

“I'm playing tight end, no doubt about it,” Stover said.

When Stover was asked if he could have envisioned himself being at the NFL Scouting Combine as a tight end when he started his Ohio State career five years, the former Buckeye laughed and said “not at all.” But Stover is confident in his ability to excel as a tight end at the next level.

“I don't think you can measure what's inside of me. I don't think you can measure the kind of person I am. I don't think you can measure how good of a football player I'm just scratching the surface to really be,” Stover said.

In the modern era of college football where transfers have become commonplace, Stover knows there are plenty of players who would have transferred to another school to play defense rather than embrace a mid-career position change like he did. But Stover, who shares a close friendship with fellow combine participants and Ohio State linebackers Tommy Eichenberg and Steele Chambers, is glad they all stuck it out at OSU for five years even if their careers didn’t all play out exactly the way they expected going in.

“I'm happy I stuck with it. I'm happy I stayed there,” Stover said. “I think now a day in age, you're gonna find a lot of different things. You’re not gonna find anybody staying for that long and stick it out like me and Tommy did, Steele for example. You're just not going to find that, kids are going to leave and want to play early. Don't get me wrong, we wanted to play early, but we trusted what they were preaching to everybody in the program, and we got where we are now.”

Stover particularly appreciates Ohio State head coach Ryan Day for having the vision that Stover could succeed at tight end and helping him get to where he is now.

“I think Coach Day is an unbelievable person. I think he's an unbelievable mind and an unbelievable coach,” Stover said. “There's so much of what we did, though we came up short (against Michigan and in the postseason) multiple times, I think so much of what we did and who I am as a person now comes from him, especially on the ball field-wise. I mean, he came up with the idea to move to tight end in the first place. That was his thinking. And I respect the hell out of that guy forever. He’s never, ever not held his word with me, and that goes a long way.”

Stover has good reason to feel he made the right decision by taking Day’s advice and moving to tight end. He’s widely considered to be one of the top tight ends in the 2024 NFL draft; according to the consensus big board at NFL Mock Draft Database, Stover is ranked as the draft’s third-best tight end behind only Georgia’s Brock Bowers and Texas’ Ja’Tavion Sanders.

He’s coming off one of the most productive receiving seasons ever for an Ohio State tight end, catching 41 passes for 576 yards and five touchdowns in 2023, though he says his focus has never been on his statistics.

“You're not going into the season looking to put up numbers. I'm looking to go win ballgames,” Stover said. “And what I did as a tight end at Ohio State, I was happy with. Especially with all the weapons (he had around him at Ohio State). At the end of the day, it's really, if I catch one ball, if I catch five balls, if I catch 10 balls; if we’re not winning ball games, it doesn't matter.”

Stover’s blocking drew some scrutiny along with the rest of Ohio State’s tight ends last season as he received a run-blocking grade of just 54.4 out of 100 from Pro Football Focus in 2023. But Stover routinely drew praise from his coaches at Ohio State for his willingness to do the “dirty work,” which Day said set up a lot of his pass-catching production by creating run-pass conflicts on play-action plays, and he made it clear Thursday that he believes in his ability as a blocker.

“I'm here to tell you ol’ PPF or PFF, whatever the hell it is, they don't know my scheme,” Stover said. “But yeah, (questions about his blocking ability) seems to be a common theme going on here … if you're afraid to miss, you're not gonna get nothing done, you’re gonna play passively.

“The common theme behind we struggled blocking, I think it's a misconception. I can think of fuck, a million blocks (he would like to have back) but then again, I mean, that's life. That's the way it goes. It’s always 100% effort, always full tilt, full-time, there’s no doubt about it.”

A two-time captain at Ohio State, Stover demonstrated his love for the game and his team-first mindset in his final game as a Buckeye as he played in the Cotton Bowl despite a lingering knee injury that he had battled during the second half of the regular season. Stover said his agents advised him not to play in that game, but he refused to give up the chance to play one last game in scarlet and gray.

“The goal wasn't to impress NFL scouts. The goal was to go out there with the rest of the guys and do it the right way at the end of it,” Stover said. “That was something I couldn’t go to sleep at night if I was to do that … The obligation to the team was the obligation to myself. The obligation to myself was to stay true to what we know. If you asked me five years ago, ‘Hey, you get an opportunity, you're gonna go to the draft here, but you got to skip this game,’ I'd be like, ‘That's not me. I'm not skipping the game.’ I just want to get on the field and play and I'm not gonna miss one opportunity to do that.”

Though he believes his film shows who he is as a player, Stover will once again take advantage of an opportunity to compete on Friday as he plans to participate in a full on-field workout with the rest of the tight ends at the combine.

“The film’s out there, the film is what it is,” Stover said. “I owe it to myself to do this and I owe it to my family to do this. And if you don't like it, you don't like it. But I'm going out there, I’m gonna do everything.”

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