Ohio State’s really never had a tight end as talented in as many areas as current star Jeremy Ruckert. Sure, there have been plenty of very solid tight ends to play for the Buckeyes over the years, and several names come to mind right away, but Ruckert stands out for more reasons than just recency bias. Due to the pass-catching ability that Ruckert has displayed since he arrived on campus, he gets the nod as Ohio State’s perfect offensive weapon tight end, but he’s also no slouch in the run game, as he has become an incredible blocker over his career and will translate that to the next level when the NFL Draft comes calling his name this coming spring.
Make no mistake about it, Ohio State hit the jackpot when the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Ruckert committed to play for the Buckeyes back in the 2018 recruiting cycle, and now it’s the staff’s job to find that kind of player again.
More recently, Ohio State in the 2022 class originally thought that they had a player close to Ruckert’s style of play when North Carolina native Benji Gosnell committed, but since he renounced his verbal pledge, the more pass-catching style tight end that the Buckeyes want in their class hasn’t really joined the fold. Yes, the staff has a great option in Bennett Christian still in the class, but continued development as a receiving tight end is needed with him as he’s the more traditional run game asset.
Which brings us to the 2023 class and Ohio State’s lone commitment. Tennessee product Ty Lockwood had a very solid experience with Ohio State over the summer which gave plenty of confidence to make his commitment this past August. In this regard though, Lockwood is exactly who the Buckeyes wanted to have as a tight end in this cycle because of the tools that he brings to the field. Simply put, while finding another player of Ruckert’s that caliber is difficult, the staff raves about what they have in Lockwood for many of the same reasons why Ruckert has been an integral piece to the current offense’s success.
Right now, Lockwood is ranked as the eighth best tight end in the class, as well as the 142nd player overall. Here’s a deeper look and a couple of reasons into why Lockwood was the top TE target on Ohio State’s board and how he looks to be the next great tight end for the Buckeyes.
If you want to replace Jeremy Ruckert, Ty Lockwood is the best option, not just because they are nearly the exact same size, but also because Lockwood has many of the same attributes that allowed Ruckert to become an all-time great OSU tight end.
Size matters for tight ends
In the traditional sense, if a player can play, they can simply play and not much more should matter. But depending on the situation, size can either hurt or help some players, but at the tight end position, size really does matter.
The ultimate “mismatch” position on the field, having an elite TE can take your offense to the next level. Look at the Buckeyes right now and you will see that to be the case with the Ruckert; or if that doesn’t convince you, look at the NFL and see guys like Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce and not much more needs to be said.
When you have a guy like that with the size necessary who can block, catch, and run, it further opens up the playbook as to what you can do from a play-calling perspective, but also creates further stress on the opposing defense.
Looking at Lockwood, he’s already currently 6-foot-5, 230 pounds as a high school junior, giving him another full year to grow on an already impressive frame. What stands out the most though is of course his height. At 6-foot-5, Lockwood has the length to be a nightmare for any outside linebacker or defensive back that he’s going to go up against in the pass game.
On the weight side of things, a strength program like Mickey Marotti will put him through once he gets to Columbus will only further enhance his strength, but in a way where speed and athleticism aren’t sacrificed.
By the time Lockwood gets to campus, his overall measurements are likely to increase for the betterment of his collegiate start, and that only leads to him getting adjusted to the next level quicker. For what he’s going to be asked to do from both the pass and run game standpoints, size is huge piece to the puzzle. He’s still a work in progress, but with his current frame, you can see why the Buckeyes were set on Lockwood from the get go in the 2023 recruiting class.
Passing game threat
Stated before, but what a receiving tight end can bring an offense is really limitless. In the case of Lockwood, his receiving abilities are the best aspect of his game, and when you look at the film you can see why.
Take this clip below for example: Here Ty is being used in the pass game with a tight end screen. Automatically, this should show you his athleticism as typically screen passes are used with more traditional receivers and running backs who theoretically are quicker and more shifty.
Thanks to his basketball background and impressive footwork though, you can see his release and how, after the catch, he’s able to use his body for nearly a 20-yard gain. He may never do this exact play scheme for Ohio State due to personnel, but having the ability is all that matters.
As well as his overall athleticism and ability to create space after the catch, another part of his game that sets him apart from other TE prospects is his ability to take the top off the defense.
As noted, a tight end who poses an obvious mismatch against defenses is everything an offensive coordinator wants, as it keeps the other side of the ball honest in their coverage. At 6-foot-5, the mismatch here speaks for itself. A player that will play on the line scrimmage, but also can split out wide gives endless opportunities. Much like Ruckert has done for Ohio State, Lockwood will be asked to do the same.
Perhaps the most impressive clip from Lockwood’s highlight film is this one below. From a coaching standpoint, receivers who understand space are rare. Creating separation to get open is next-level type of ability and here, he shows exactly that.
What’s the most impressive from this clip is realizing that this is as a high school sophomore. Key in on how he feels the defender to his left and works to find the hole in the zone. Knowing how to find the windows against the defense’s coverage is pretty incredible.
Clearly, the Buckeyes know they’re getting a high IQ football player who is only going to improve on an already very solid foundation.
It can’t be stressed enough how important the tight end is in a Ryan Day offense. While the amount of catches may not ever be what you’d expect with a talent like Ruckert, just having the ability to use that player split out wide is a threat you want in your arsenal.
Make no mistake about it though, Lockwood can be an asset in the run game too as he’s proved he’s a solid blocking tight end too. Still though, having near identical frames to Ruckert, Lockwood is the perfect candidate to replace what Ohio State has been so fond of the last couple of seasons.