Ohio State had their chance back in 2014 to snag 247’s No. 1 tight end prospect in the country, Mike Gesicki, and recruiting experts even tilted their Crystal Ball predictions to an 88-percent chance that Urban Meyer would be able to sign him, but things just didn’t workout that way. Gesicki committed to Penn State, while the Buckeyes missed out entirely on the tight end position in their star-studded 2014 class. But it’s safe to say the nation’s best collegiate tight end has no qualms about signing with James Franklin’s Nittany Lions.
Standing at 6’6, 252 lbs with a 40-inch vertical (measured back in 2014), the Penn State tight end is the definition of a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses and is built to be a force on Sundays.
Over the last two seasons, Gesicki has racked up 72 receptions for 907 yards and nine touchdowns. Of those 72 receptions, 37 have moved the chains and 21 have gone for 15-plus yards. He comes down with jump ball after jump ball, and is borderline impossible to defend one-on-one. It also doesn’t hurt that Trace McSorley has the utmost confidence in his tight end, even when blanketed by multiple defensive backs.
What makes him so tough to defend is his size, his long arms and his hops that would have you confused with a Division I basketball player. Speaking of basketball, Gesicki was one of New Jersey’s top forwards, and actually sat down with Coach Mike Krzyzewski at Duke while on a recruiting visit to talk about potentially double dipping in both football and hoops.
His basketball attributes show up on the football field, as he has the ability to box out the defender and snatch the ball at its high point like he’s going up for a rebound in traffic.
Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, they haven’t fared well against the limited big receiving options that they’ve squared off against this season. In the opener, 6’4 receiver Simmie Cobbs Jr. put on a jump ball clinic against the 5’10 Denzel Ward — the only receiver to win his individual matchup against Ward this season. Ward was caught consistently with his back facing the football, which allowed Cobbs to track the ball and make the catch over the smaller cornerback. The defensive backs have since done a better job to get their bodies turned around and find the ball, but they haven’t really had to face any physically imposing receivers or tight ends — other than Oklahoma’s 6’5 tight end Mark Andrews who was forced out due to injury early in the contest.
So how will the Ohio State defense try to limit Gesicki? He’s too big for a defensive back and he’s too athletic and too good of a route runner for a linebacker. It might be a variation of physicality off the line of scrimmage and a mix of defensive backs who possess different skill-sets. Jam him up at the line of scrimmage to tire his legs out and throw off timing to give the better cover guys in the secondary a slight advantage.
“[Gesicki’s] about 6-foot-7,” Greg Schiano said. “We’ve just got to have different ways to try to get people on him.”
Ohio State’s Swiss-Army Knife Jerome Baker has a different idea to limit the tight end.
“Don’t allow it to be a jump ball,” Baker said. “Be physical on him before he even gets the chance to jump like that. When it’s that high, he’s going to be a tough one. Just got to play through his hands and some way, some how get it out.”
That seems much easier said than done.