The future stars of Ohio State football officially begin their college careers as standouts from all over the country put pens to their National Letters of Intent.
Since Urban Meyer has arrived at Ohio State, one of the most repeated critiques of the coach's offenses has been their lack of production from the tight end position.
That could change, however, with the arrival of Jeremy Ruckert.
The Ruckert File
- Class: 2018
- Size: 6-foot-6, 238 pounds
- Pos: TE
- School: Lindenhurst (NY)
- Composite Rating: ★★★★
- Composite Rank: 1 (TE)
Ranked as the top player at his position in the entire class of 2018, Ruckert is the most talented tight end Ohio State has signed since Meyer's arrival in Columbus six years ago.
Now that he is officially a Buckeye, Ruckert will look to follow in the footsteps of Curtis Samuel as Ohio State's next big thing from the Empire State.
While Ohio State's interest in Ruckert is longstanding, as the Buckeyes offered Ruckert before his junior year in 2016, it became clear just how much Ohio State coach Urban Meyer wanted Ruckert when Ruckert described Meyer's recruiting strategy during an interview at The Opening this summer.
"Coach Meyer texts me every day. He texted me this morning," Ruckert told Eleven Warriors. "He doesn't just text me, either. He texts my family and my girlfriend and sends letters to my girlfriend's mom. He really goes the extra mile to make sure my parents and my family are comfortable being with him the next four years, which is the most important thing."
Although the idea of Meyer texting a recruit's girlfriend drew some scrutiny from others, Ruckert was impressed with the coach's extra effort, deciding to include Ohio State among his final four schools along with Michigan, Notre Dame and Wisconsin.
"Right now, I'm really just focusing on those four schools,” Ruckert said June 29. "As I near a decision, I want to learn as much as I can about those schools because I'm going to spending my next four years there. I want to make sure I leave no regret, no doubt of the school I want to go to."
Less than three weeks after attending The Opening, Ruckert decided to end his recruiting process, committing to Ohio State on July 17, making him the 15th recruit to commit to Ohio State's class of 2018.
Once he gave the Buckeyes his word, that sealed the deal: Ruckert was coming to Columbus.
"The way I was raised, once I make a commitment, that's going to be it. I'm not going to take any visits to other schools," he said. "I'm going to start recruiting other guys. Where I'm from, the way I was raised by my dad and my mom, once I'm committed I have to finish it."
What ultimately gave the Buckeyes the edge over the other Midwestern programs Ruckert was considering, he said, was Ohio State's Real Life Wednesdays program.
"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," Ruckert told said. "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."
At 6-foot-6 and 238 pounds with a 4.7-second 40-yard dash and a 35-inch vertical jump, Ruckert has the physical tools to be an elite tight end. He played mostly wide receiver in high school, so he'll have to learn how to block at the collegiate level, but his size and athleticism will make him a mismatch to cover for both linebackers and defensive backs alike.
It remains to be seen whether the Buckeyes will begin utilizing their tight ends as pass-catchers more going forward, but Ruckert's talent could be what Ohio State offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson – who is also the Buckeyes' tight ends coach – needs to begin drawing up more plays to get the ball in the tight ends' hands.
What is known is that while Ruckert might not have as many pass-catching opportunities as Ohio State as he might have had at other schools, he is at a school that can help him get to the NFL. Jeff Heuerman was a third-round pick in the 2015 NFL draft, while Nick Vannett was a third-round pick in the 2016 NFL draft, even though Heuerman never caught more than 26 passes in a season and Vannett never caught more than 19 passes in a season.
After a senior season in which he had 1,094 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns and led Lindenhurst High School to the Long Island Championship – while also recording 61 tackles, 13 sacks and two interceptions on defense – Ruckert was named by Gatorade as the New York state player of the year.
That makes Ruckert the second New York Gatorade Player of the Year to come to Ohio State in the Meyer era, following the aforementioned Samuel.
If Ruckert can have a similar level of success to Samuel, who had more than 3,000 all-purpose yards in three seasons as a Buckeye before becoming a second-round pick in the 2017 NFL draft, Ohio State will have reason to feel good about its latest investment at the tight end position.