As the Buckeyes steamroll in into spring practice we continue to break down and analyze the depths at each position group. Last week we broke down the receiving corps, and gave a few names to watch for this spring and next season. This week we will break down the depths of the tight end position.
The Buckeyes have many question marks to address this spring, as they have to replace six starters on offense and four on the defensive side of the ball. A position that is not of great concern for Coach Meyer, however, is the tight end position. Ohio State will return all of their tight ends for the 2014 season.
Headlining the group is senior Jeff Heuerman. Last season, Heuerman proved last season that he can be a very reliable target for QB Braxton Miller, racking up an impressive 466 yards and 4 scores on 26 receptions in 13 games for the Bucks. Expect Heuerman to be even more of a force this season as Braxton will lose his both top target reciever Corey Brown and his workhorse running back Carlos Hyde. With a lot of new and young faces seeing the field next season, Heuerman will bring much needed experience and leadership to the Buckeye offense. This could certainly make him an imposing threat on third downs, as well as a go-to-guy in the red zone. Heuerman will miss the rest of spring ball after having foot surgery, but is expected to be back at full speed before fall camp.
TE1 - Jeff Heuerman
TE2 - Nick Vannett
TE3 - Marcus Baugh
TE4 - J.T. Moore
FLEX - Noah Brown
Backing up Jeff Heuerman will be redshirt junior Nick Vannett. Vannett is not really a new face to the offense, as he made appearances in all 12 games in 2012, but was limited last season due to injury. Vannet will provide great depth at the tight end position behind Heuerman When Vannett subs in, the offense doesn't miss a beat. That type of depth at any position will surely make a coaches job a lot less stressful. So far into spring practice Vannett has impressed the coaches, and he graded out as a "champion" after their first scrimmage. Vannett is definitely making his plea for playing time next season, and fans shouldn't be a surprised to see him get a lot of snaps next year.
At the third TE spot will belong to redshirt freshman Marcus Baugh. Baugh, a highly touted recruit out of the Golden State, was predicted by many to see playing time early in his career as a Buckeye, but was redshirted instead. This redshirt came as a result of the mixture of problems with blocking (which Meyer puts a large emphasis on for all positions) and multiple off the field issues. Baugh was suspended for the first game of last season because he was arrested for underage drinking. Since then, Baugh has been arrested two additional times. It is certain that Baugh will need to straighten up on and off of the field if he ever expects to see playing time under Urban Meyer.
Rounding out the fourth TE spot is redshirt senior J.T. Moore. Moore originally played on the defensive side of the ball for the Buckeyes as a defensive lineman, but moved to the offensive side of the ball last season. The move was likely a result of Baugh's inability to block combined with Baugh's off-field issues. The move gave the offense even more depth at the tight end position. Moore will likely not see much playing time next season at tight end, except for a few snaps during mop-up duty. He will make his contribution to the team as a practice squad player and also on special teams.
Another player to look for is incoming freshman Noah Brown. Listed as a receiver, the 6'2 220 pound athlete has the frame to line up situationally at the position. Though, he would not be your stereotypical bruiser tight end, he would make a great flex tight end that we see a lot in today's game. Brown's size and speed could cause havoc for many defenses in the Big Ten.
All in all, the tight ends for Ohio State bring depth and experience to the Buckeye offense. I expect OC Tom Herman to utilize the tight end position more than ever next season. With many young and new faces on the offense, the tight ends will provide Braxton Miller with some familiar and experienced targets. The tight ends will also play a large role in blocking next season, as the Bucks will have to replace four offensive lineman.
Speaking of lineman, tune in next week for another break down in our series "Exploring the Depths" as we take an in-depth look at projecting the starting line that will be blocking for heisman hopeful Braxton Miller.