When Ohio State junior tight end Jeremy Ruckert announced that he was returning for one more year with the Buckeyes, he didn’t necessarily surprise anybody but he certainly relieved some anxiety among his coaches and the fanbase.
Losing Ruckert would have meant going into the 2021 season with almost no experience at the tight end position. Instead, with his return, the Buckeyes now have one of the top players at his position in the nation.
As a junior, Ruckert finished third on the team last year with 13 receptions and five touchdowns. His 151 yards were good for fourth-most on the team. He caught three passes for 55 yards and two touchdowns in the semifinal playoff game against Clemson and one pass for 36 yards against Alabama in the national title game. Prior to the playoffs, however, he went three weeks without a catch.
With fellow tight end Luke Farrell off to the NFL, this season is setting up to be a big one for Ruckert and he knows there are some things he could do better than he did a year ago.
“I think the main factor was just that I knew I had more to give,” he said this spring of his decision to return.
“I wanted to just give everything I had and I feel like I didn’t want to just leave on that note. I had opportunities past this, but I definitely wanted to just make the most of it here and let everybody know that I got more to give to this place and I’m just doing everything I can for this year.”
Ruckert came to Ohio State having never really played tight end in high school, so the learning process wasn’t an easy one. Gradually he became the kind of blocker who could hold up flexed out or tied to the line of scrimmage. And while he’s much better than he was in his earlier days, there is still room to grow.
“I think looking at, for example, just looking at Luke how consistent he was in the blocking game. I think that’s something I really want to work on,” said. “He, as you see now all these teams talking about how no one really blocks in college at tight end and to be as consistent as Luke was, I want to try and emulate that and be like that. I had some really, really good blocks and some bad ones, so I want to just be more consistent and not be so hot and cold and keep trending upwards. So I think that’s like the biggest thing I want to work on, just trying to be the most consistent player I can be.”
Consistency is key and it’s a trait coveted by coaches. The more a coach knows what to expect, the better he can prepare his team or put a player in the best position to succeed. Coaches do not like surprises and that’s what they get with inconsistent players.
Returning for a senior season, Ruckert should be one of the Buckeyes’ most consistent offensive players. The offensive brain trust has already talked about using him more than they did last year and moving the tight ends up in the passing game progressions.
Ruckert admitted that the plans for him this year played a part in his return, but he’s not looking for any handouts.
“Yeah, that was definitely a discussion, but I’m not one to just come back and say I’m only gonna come back if this happens. I mean, It’s a two-way street,” he said. “So I thought if I wanted more catches to come my way then I need to put more work in in the offseason and try to enhance that part of my game.
“Early in my career I really needed to learn how to put weight on and block really well and get physical. And now that we’re kind of there, I’m just trying to enhance all different aspects and make the little things the bigger things. So I knew I had more to give to this team and this university, so I definitely wanted to come back and I think the decision to come back is going to help me, the team, and everybody else.”