“It is a mystery that nobody seems particularly intent on solving. Ohio State co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach Jeff Hafley was stumped by it. The man himself, Shaun Wade, had no answer. Wade is considered a vital player in Ohio State’s secondary. But what position best describes the redshirt sophomore’s role?”
When you take a look at college football teams across the country, each individual player on the roster is listed at a certain position. While a few guys may move around to different positions in various situations, they function best in their designated position, and as a result will spend the overwhelming majority of the time in that spot. However, there is the rare occasion in which a player’s skill set cannot be defined by just one position. This grey area is where you will find guys like Shaun Wade.
Wade came to Columbus as a five-star recruit in the 2017 class. Hailing out of Trinity Christian Academy in Jacksonville, Fla., the now 6-foot-1, 194-pound defensive back was rated as one of the best players in the country, coming in as the No. 2 cornerback and No. 17 overall. Wade’s talents have put him in the conversation to be the next great defensive back out of Ohio State. There is only one problem: Just where should the Buckeyes play him?
Wade is one of the most versatile players in Jeff Hafley’s secondary. After missing his first year on campus with an injury, he quickly found his way up the depth chart in 2018, playing in 13 games and recording three interceptions and seven pass breakups. Thus far in his Ohio State career, he has found himself playing both the outside and slot corner positions as well as some safety. Heading into 2019, it is still unclear where the redshirt sophomore will find his niche.
Hafley loves what he has seen from Wade throughout camp, both mentally and physically. He has stated that Wade’s proficiency against the run as well as his ability to make quick decisions make him well suited to play inside, while his size, length and speed make him a good candidate for the outside. He will continue to develop at both spots, but he also maintains the skills and build of a safety, working with Hafley as he prepares to lineup at any of the three positions this season.
While it remains unknown where exactly Wade will spend the majority of his time with the Silver Bullets, one thing is for sure: Shaun Wade is going to be a big-time playmaker in 2019.
“But Ruckert also hoped to shake things up a bit in Columbus. While the likes of Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett made it to the NFL, neither was a premier pass-catching tight end in college. Ruckert was that and more in high school and the four-star prospect wanted to show that at the college level.”
It seems as though Ohio State fans ask the same question each and every offseason: is this the season the Buckeyes get back to featuring the tight end in the passing game? For the majority of the past two decades, the short answer has been no. OSU has not had a tight end catch more than 30 passes since 2003, when Ben Hartsock registered 33 receptions. Marcus Baugh had some success as recently as 2017, but even he fell short of the mark with 28 receptions. For the most part, if you are a tight end at Ohio State, you are an extra blocker.
Enter Jeremy Ruckert, a four-star tight end out of Long Island, N.Y. Ruckert was ranked the No. 1 player out of his home state and the No. 2 tight end in the nation in the 2018 recruiting cycle. At 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, Ruckert creates a matchup nightmare for opposing linebackers with his low 4.7-second 40 time. The sophomore is Ohio State’s first true pass-catching tight end in quite a while, racking up over 3,100 yards receiving with 37 touchdowns in his high school career.
Ruckert had a tough time getting on the field his freshman season. As an inexperienced blocker, he lost playing time to Luke Farrell and Rashod Berry, catching just one pass for 13 yards on the season — coming in the team’s season opener. Heading into his sophomore year, Ruckert has developed his blocking ability. The Buckeyes did not recruit the talented tight end to just become an extension of the offensive line. His improved skills should allow Ruckert to get much more playing time in 2019, which could lead to production from the TE position not seen at Ohio State in quite a while.
“He’s only been here for a week and a couple days so for him to learn all the terminology, he’s done a tremendous job. He’s as professional as can be, he’s a winner, you think about all those games that he’s won in college. He has that for sure.”
It has been a bumpy professional career for former Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett. After tearing up both the program and Big Ten record books, Barrett went undrafted in 2018, but shortly thereafter signed a free agent deal with the New Orleans Saints. It seemed like the ideal scenario for Barrett, joining a roster featuring Drew Brees — the man whose conference records he took down — and a plethora of fellow Buckeyes.
However, Barrett was never able to gain any ground on the depth chart, and soon entered a cycle of releases and signings, ultimately culminating in last week’s signing by the Seattle Seahawks. It is unclear whether or not Barrett has found a forever home in Seattle, a team that nearly drafted the QB in the late rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft, but the three-time Big Ten Quarterback of the Year has impressed Seahawks starter Russell Wilson in his short time with the team.
Wilson says that Barrett has a very professional attitude about him, quickly learning the playbook and all the terminology on his new team. Wilson also likes that Barrett is a winner, talking about all the games he won as the starter at Ohio State.
It will be tough for Barrett to make the team’s regular season roster, with the Seahawks already featuring Paxton Lynch and Geno Smith as quarterback depth. However, the way the former Buckeye signal caller carries himself seems to give him at least a glimmer of hope as he tries to find his way in the NFL.