We continue the Better Know a Buckeye series with its 12th installment in 2018 with a profile of Jeremy Ruckert, a tight end from Lindenhurst, NY.
- Size: 6-5/238
- Position: TE
- Hometown: Lindenhurst, NY
- School: Lindenhurst
- 247 Composite: ★★★★
- National Ranking: 37
- Position Ranking: 2 (TE)
- State Ranking: 1 (NY)
- U.S. Army All-American
- Polynesian Bowl
- The Opening Finals
Ruckert is the most hyped tight end prospect Ohio State has recruited in at least 10 years. Urban Meyer even thinks he's the best tight end prospect he has ever recruited, a strong signal considering Ruckert has yet to enroll at the university. However, it was precisely that emphasis and strong interest in Ruckert that propelled Ohio State to the top of his list. He committed to Ohio State last July over competing offers from Michigan, Notre Dame, and Wisconsin.
I retell this recruitment below. Thereafter, I provide a scouting report of a prospect that Urban Meyer is praying will immediately pick up the playbook so that he could see the field this season. Tight ends generally don't have instant impacts as true freshmen but I note we can expect Ruckert to see the field in meaningful stretches this year. I conclude with some junior-year highlight film to watch at the end of the feature.
Ruckert's recruitment is going to dovetail nicely with how we described Matthew Jones' recruitment last week. New York is not a hotbed of talent but its top prospects can and do travel to the best programs around the country. This year alone, New York's No. 1 (Ruckert) and No. 2 (Jones) are en route to Ohio State.
Recruitments for New York prospects all start regional with the FBS programs of note in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Ruckert's recruitment mirrored Jones' recruitment, starting with attention from the likes of Boston College, Connecticut, Rutgers, and Syracuse in his freshman and sophomore years. Boston College was the first offer, coming in the spring of his sophomore year. Syracuse and Connecticut bookended a two-week span in which Ruckert received offers from Pittsburgh, Rutgers, and Wake Forest.
More Jeremy Ruckert at 11W
Ruckert's recruitment gained steam in May 2016, especially three-day span near the end of the month when Ruckert received offers from Penn State, Alabama, Ohio State, and Florida State. This preceded a summer trip through much of the South in which Ruckert acquired other offers from programs like Auburn, Georgia, Florida, and Ole Miss. All told, it became clear Ruckert was going to be a top prospect from New York whose talents would exceed what typically signs with FBS programs in the area.
Ruckert could have gone as far as Miami or UCLA with the offers he got in 2016, but he focused his recruitment on the Midwest. Four favorites emerged early into his junior season. Michigan and Notre Dame emerged as contenders after Ruckert picked up some belated interest and offers. Wisconsin, whose offer preceded Ohio State by about three weeks, also became a contender for Ruckert. Wisconsin has a solid reputation in New York and with tight end prospects. Chryst does more with the position than most other major coaches.
However, Ohio State emerged as the clear favorite for Ruckert at the end of 2016 and no crystal ball projection deviated from a prediction for Ohio State. There are a few reasons for this and all ultimately cluster on Ohio State's coaching staff identifying Ruckert as the No. 1 tight end on their board. He became the highest priority at the position for the coaching staff.
The details from this recruitment are amusing. Ohio State's coaching staff is among the most diligent on the recruiting trail but it went the extra mile for Ruckert. Urban Meyer texted Jeremy Ruckert every day. He texted Ruckert's family every day as well. He even sent texts to Ruckert's girlfriend. The coaching staff identified the mailing address of the parents of Ruckert's girlfriend and sent letters to them as well.
This resonated particularly well with Ruckert and was enough to offset some of the limitations Ohio State had on the recruiting trail. The three other programs Ruckert most strongly considered all have a better reputation for maximizing tight ends in their respective offenses. However, that extra effort pushed Ohio State over the top and made the Buckeyes the consensus favorite to land Ruckert's verbal pledge.
Jeremy Ruckert committed to Ohio State on July 17, 2017 as the 12th member of what would become Ohio State's full 2018 recruiting class. He chose Ohio State over Michigan, Notre Dame, and Wisconsin.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 17, 2017
The emphasis Ohio State put on recruiting him ultimately made the difference in choosing Ohio State over Michigan, Notre Dame, and Wisconsin but other aspects of Ohio State's program got his attention. Ruckert always valued programs whose universities have major pedigree, which explains why Ruckert eschewed the SEC programs to focus on the Big Ten and Midwest.
Ohio State also helped itself with its Real Life Wednesdays program. Ruckert emphasized Ohio State's post-football life-planning as a major reason he chose the Buckeyes.
Wherever I go, there's going to be national attention. We're going to be all over TV. They're going to develop you to be the best player you can be... But the biggest thing is [life] after football. You can't play your whole life — the average career in the NFL is 3 1/2 years, so you're about 27 or 28 when you're done. Then you have to start over again. Whatever school I want go to, I want to make sure I'm comfortable with having an out after football and being successful.
Ruckert's recruitment effectively ended with that pledge. He signed with Ohio State during the early signing period.
— Ohio State Football (@OhioStateFB) December 20, 2017
WHERE HE EXCELS
This might be the most optimism Ohio State has seen for a tight end prospect in possibly forever. I can't recall the last tight end that enrolled at Ohio State with this much hype. The closest comparison might be the hype for Jake Stoneburner in 2008, but so much of Stoneburner's hype might be how fans projected optimism on that entire class even as Stoneburner himself was a top prospect. All told, the excitement for Ruckert may surpass that.
Much of the hype comes from the man on top. Urban Meyer is generally not effusive in praise in public. He's also honest to the point of blunt for which negative feedback resonates more in public than the positive feedback he also doles out. It's what makes this assessment of Ruckert from Urban Meyer during an early signing period Q&A that much more eye-opening.
"I think Jeremy Ruckert might be the best tight end prospect that I’ve ever seen and recruited. His skill set is ridiculous. Now it’s a question of getting him ready to play."
Urban Meyer has recruited his fair share of stellar tight ends in his many years of coaching so this is the highest praise for a prospect who hasn't enrolled yet.
It's the combination of size and athleticism that is motivating this optimism for Ruckert's potential. He won't beat many cornerbacks or safeties in a foot race but he's faster than most tight ends they might see if they're matched with him in space. Further, he has an exceptional and solid "push off." He creates separation from the defender in ways that subtly maximize his frame.
Watch his highlight film and you'll see it. "Rob Gronkowski", who happens to be Ruckert's role model, is obviously the absolute best-case scenario but "Mike Gesicki" is the most plausible best-case scenario. Still, that would be an exceptional development for Ruckert as Gesicki was an excellent tight end and a pain in the ass for every defensive coaching staff in the conference.
MUST WORK ON
There are a number of standard question marks for Ruckert. Certainly he'll see an increase in difficulty at the college level and that his transition from Lindenhurst to Ohio State may be steeper than a similar tight end prospect who may come from a prep factory like IMG or St. Thomas Aquinas.
The bigger question mark right now concerns how quickly he can pick up the playbook. It's evident that Ohio State's coaching staff wants to play him in 2018. However, an immediate path to the field depends on how quickly Ruckert converts from wide receiver to tight end. Ohio State wants to maximize his talents at the tight end position but that position will always involve more run-blocking and pass protection than Ruckert showed in high school.
Ohio State's coaches want to play Ruckert and the fans certainly want to see it. Ruckert's path to the field in 2018 became a little bit clearer when Aramis Alexander moved to a medical scholarship and Kierre Hawkins transferred to Youngstown State. The remaining two tight ends on the roster (Luke Farrell, Jake Hausmann) behind prospective starter Rashod Berry have two combined catches in their careers to this point.
That means there's ample opportunity and even a need for Ruckert to play in 2018. Expect to see him on the field in 2018 accordingly.
Here are junior-year highlights of Jeremy Ruckert.