Members of the Ohio State beat were permitted on Friday to watch a bit of the Buckeyes’ seventh practice of the spring and arguably the biggest bit of news to come out of the day was that sophomore wide receiver Gee Scott was now working with the tight ends.
Scott came to Ohio State from Washington as a 6-foot-3, 210-pound wide receiver, so he was already on the bigger end for his position. And, as happens for athletes and regular students alike, the ‘freshman fifteen’ can be an inevitability, especially during a quarantine.
Scott ended up playing in five of Ohio State’s eight games last season but didn’t make it into the rotation and failed to record a reception. It was tough going for all of the Buckeyes’ freshmen last year as they tried to find their footing, doing everything for the first time and having to do it during a pandemic. Despite the lack of production, expectations never dropped for Scott.
Ohio State opened spring ball with 13 scholarship receivers, which is an extremely crowded and talented room. Despite the numbers, Scott was still expected to be part of the rotation. So when the media showed up and Scott was at tight end, it was news.
As head coach Ryan Day explained it following practice, this was Scott’s idea.
“Gee kind of came to us having a conversation about possibly doing some tight end stuff and we thought that was a great idea,” he said. “And he’s a very mature young man who sees a future in in that for him. Now, whether we go full time with it or not, we’ll see, but he’s got the right idea on this thing. He has the right frame. He’s very very athletic and he thinks that Kevin Wilson will really teach him how to block, and he wants to do it. So, we’re very, very excited about it. We think it’s a huge opportunity for him and excited about where it’s going to go.”
Day has discussed players moving positions a number of times this spring and has always come back to the fact that if the player isn’t 100% in favor of it, it won’t work. This move being Scott’s idea should ease the concerns about desire, and given Scott’s pass-catching abilities, the possibilities are intriguing.
Still, moving positions brings about a brand new learning curve, as well different requirements in terms being the proper size. The move from receiver to tight end isn’t uncommon for bigger receivers, but it doesn’t just depend on willingness. Physiology also matters.
“Yeah, when we look at their way they’re built, certainly their knee size and size their of legs. That is usually a pretty good indication of how much weight they can put on and how much they can handle,” Day said. “But yeah, he was doing everything he could to stay at 215. And so he actually said that, he says ‘You know, I’m fighting every day to be at 215,’ and he says, ‘If I just have a few Big Macs, I can get to 225 and in a heartbeat.’ So, yeah, we think that his growth potential fits at tight end.”
Kevin Wilson mentioned a couple of weeks ago about how he talked to one of the top tight ends in the game recently and he was told the tight end played at 240 pounds and did just fine. As long as the strength is there to handle blocking bigger players, weight does not need to be an exact science. However, it’s pretty easy to see Scott getting to 230 pretty quickly if a couple of Big Macs would put him at 225.
So while Scott was one of 13 scholarship receivers before, he would now be one of five scholarship tight ends, and the only guy who has seen more time on offense than he has is senior Jeremy Ruckert. Now that doesn’t mean his path to playing time is guaranteed, but it certainly does add some wrinkles to a position that was pretty straightforward.
Ultimately, Scott may see as much time playing tight on the offensive line as former Buckeye Ted Ginn did, but if you remember the one time he did it against Michigan in 2006, it was pretty effective. Instead, Scott is likely going to be flexed out as a second tight end, much like Ruckert was his first couple of years. It takes time to build up the necessary strength and size to contend with pass rushers, so expect Scott’s role in this Ohio State offense to be more of a pass catcher.
One interesting aspect of this is that Ruckert is now able to handle life playing on the line, which means he could be paired with Scott to give Ohio State it’s most athletic combo of tight ends in school history. Scott’s role wouldn’t change from what he’s been accustomed to, except now he’ll get to run routes against linebackers and safeties instead of cornerbacks. And blocking is nothing new, except the guys he’ll be blocking now will be a bit bigger. But then so will he.
Along with the five scholarship tight ends of Jeremy Ruckert (senior), Cade Stover (redshirt sophomore), Gee Scott (sophomore), Joe Royer (redshirt freshman), and Sam Hart (true freshman), the Buckeyes also have a pair of walk-on tight ends in Corey Rau (graduate) and Mitch Rossi (senior) who will play this year as well. Each of them, however, could be assigned different roles.
Rau, for instance, is the extra blocker of the group. Then there is Rossi, who at 6-foot-even and 245 pounds is a one-of-a-kind in the program and actually prefers to be known as a fullback. He played in every game last year, either on offense or special teams, and will do so again this year. Neither of those guys, however, will be doing things that would take potential snaps away from Gee Scott.
True freshmen tight ends don’t play that often and even though Sam Hart is already enrolled, there is a learning curve and a body reshaping that generally has to occur.
Scott and Joe Royer may be the two guys competing most against each other for playing time as both would be flexed out. Royer did not play last year and redshirted, but the experience he gained from being at the position for a year certainly gives him an advantage. Playing Royer and Scott together would likely require Royer to play on the line, which he can do, but he has already acknowledged this spring that he’s more of a flex guy right now.
Scott and Cade Stover could certainly play together as Stover can either be a Y tight end (on the line) or a flex. So there could be situations where Stover is on the line and Scott is flexed out.
Finding a second tight end for their ’12 personnel’ packages is very important. Scott’s move has made this tight end group more versatile and gives them more options. There has already been talk about moving Ruckert up in the progressions for the quarterbacks, which was one of the reasons he decided to return for his senior season. Maybe that desire will increase for others at the position as well.
As a new breed of tight ends continues to wreak havoc on defenses around the game, the possibilities for what Gee Scott’s move could mean for Ohio State is significant.
Now it’s just up to the Buckeyes to use him.