[This is the second in a series looking at each of Ohio State’s key departures and how the Buckeyes will look to replace them. Up next, tight end Luke Farrell.]
Luke Farrell was a three-year starter at tight end for the Buckeyes and even though his career reception total topped out at 34 catches for 380 yards and four touchdowns, his value to the Ohio State offense went well beyond his numbers as a receiver.
Farrell was a complete tight end for the Buckeyes and was adept at both run blocking and pass blocking. He was a physical extra lineman when needed and a talented pass catcher when given the opportunity. He caught 20 passes as a redshirt sophomore, but tallied just 12 receptions over his final two seasons.
In replacing him, the Buckeyes are going to need somebody who can provide the same versatility that Farrell did over his four years on the playing field. Fortunately, they’ll start off on good footing.
The main job here will be handled by rising senior Jeremy Ruckert who looks to bolster his NFL draft stock by returning for a final season in Columbus. Ruckert had to learn the position when he arrived, but he picked it up quickly as a true freshman and has been a vital part of the offense the last two seasons.
Ruckert finished third on the team this past season with 13 receptions — five of which went for touchdowns — and his 151 yards receiving were good for fourth. He was named an Honorable Mention All-Big Ten selection in 2020 by the conference coaches. As a sophomore he totaled 14 catches for 142 yards and four touchdowns.
Behind Ruckert are three young players, each of whom is still looking for their first collegiate reception. The 2020 season was the first as a tight end for Cade Stover. Stover [pictured below] arrived at Ohio State as a linebacker, then moved to defensive end late in his freshman season. After the 2019 season, however, Stover was moved to tight end. He looked good in the spring, but there just weren’t many snaps for him in 2020.
Joe Royer was a true freshman in 2020 but redshirted. He brings good size, and was a very talented receiver in high school like Ruckert. Incoming freshman Sam Hart has already enrolled and is now on campus. Based on the level of experience ahead of him, there is definitely a spot in the two-deep that can be won.
Also keep in mind walk-on Mitch Rossi, who is more of a fullback but played quite a bit for the Buckeyes this past season as a fourth-year junior. If Rossi returns, he provides an option as a second or third tight end in blocking situations.
The Spring Outlook
While Jeremy Ruckert and the next Ohio State starting quarterback will need to gain a rapport, there probably isn’t a lot of need to overwork the Buckeyes’ top returning tight end in the spring. As such, this should mean more reps for Cade Stover, Joe Royer, and Sam Hart as they try to figure out the pecking order for the fall.
How well that search goes could determine how often the Buckeyes will have a second tight end on the field in the fall.
The Best Bet
This one is pretty easy because Jeremy Ruckert will continue to play heavy minutes. Can he become a security blanket of sorts for the Buckeyes’ new starting quarterback? Also, with his ability to block out in space, Ruckert will continue to be a possibility to line up in the slot in the run or the pass.
Behind him, it’s anybody’s ball game. All three scholarship options are tremendous athletes for what the position requires. The most playing time will probably go to the best blocker of the bunch because Ohio State loves their 12 personnel (1 back, 2 tight ends) options. Given his time spent on defense — and being a year older — this could be Cade Stover.