The Buckeyes lose starting tight end Luke Farrell, but senior Jeremy Ruckert is plenty experienced and has started a handful of games himself. He was third on the team in receptions last year (13) and could be again this year. It won’t be a surprise to see accolades follow him after a very productive 2021 season. The only catch among the tight ends behind Ruckert belong to fifth-year walk-on Mitch Rossi. Between Ruckert and Rossi are redshirt sophomore Cade Stover, redshirt freshman Joe Royer, and true freshman Sam Hart. Hart is already enrolled and will participate in spring ball. The 2021 season will be a relative showcase for Ruckert, but the spring may be about everybody else.
88 Jeremy Ruckert, Sr
16 Cade Stover, rSoph OR
84 Joe Royer, rFr OR
NA Sam Hart, FR OR
34 Mitch Rossi, rSR
- Can Cade Stover blossom this spring?
- What do the Buckeyes have in Joe Royer and Sam Hart?
- Is this really the Year of the Tight End?
This spring, expect Jeremy Ruckert to continue to showcase himself as a talented tight end deserving of a large role in this offense. That role won’t just be catching the ball, however, because he is a complete tight end. Behind him, Cade Stover should continue to progress and be pushed by both Joe Royer and Sam Hart for a spot on the two-deep. Royer should be ahead of Hart given his extra year. Mitch Rossi will provide leadership and could emerge as the third tight end this year on running downs.
What Needs to Happen
Jeremy Ruckert doesn’t need to be overly involved in spring reps because it is much more important for the Buckeyes to build the depth behind him. As many reps as can be given to Cade Stover, Joe Royer, and Sam Hart this spring should be the marching orders because you need to make sure you’ve got a No. 2 behind Ruckert. And with as deep as the Buckeyes have been at the position the last few years, try to find yourself a good No. 3 as well. Getting two of those three on the field together will also give offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson and head coach Ryan Day a better idea of how much they’ll be using sets with two tight ends in 2021.
If a second tight end doesn’t step up this spring, that will be bad. For one, as a third-year player, Cade Stover’s time is now. As a guy who has moved positions twice already, if it doesn’t happen this spring at tight end, it may not happen for him anywhere. There is still the summer and fall camp, so it won’t be a dire situation, but outside of speculation about injuries, only having one reliable tight end coming out of spring would be the worst-case scenario.
Keep An Eye On
Ohio State likes to play two tight ends, which means there is a ton of playing time on the horizon for Cade Stover, Joe Royer, or Sam Hart. They can see it from where they are standing. Being able to see a path to playing time can make it easier for players to develop because it’s a very straight line. All they need to do is stay ahead of the two guys next to them. The competition this spring between Stover, Royer, and Hart should be incredible to watch, and the progress that each of them makes during camp will increase the Buckeyes’ chances of having a viable second tight end this season. The winner of the battle for No. 2 will then move on to battle Ohio State’s No. 3 receiver for playing time this season.
One Last Thing
Cade Stover is a former linebacker and a former defensive end, which means the physical aspect of the tight end position suits him well. He is also a very athletic big man (6-4 255) who was a tremendous running back in high school. Stover is a hard worker and has been a selfless player in his time as a Buckeye. All of these attributes fit what it takes to be a successful tight end. Stover didn’t get many snaps last year on offense, but there were two seniors and one junior in front of him. He has learned from some talented players and it would not surprise anybody if this spring ended up being a breakout for him.