When taking a glimpse at the roster for the Ohio State offense this upcoming season, there is without question a boat load of talent that is expected to light up the scoreboard week in and week out. However, there is one specific position that the Buckeyes have a question mark at, and that is tight end.
Ohio State will have to find a way to replace Jeremy Ruckert, who is off to try his hand in the NFL. Ruckert, a former four-star recruit out of Lindenhurst (NY), complied 54 receptions for 615 yards and 12 touchdowns during his time with the Buckeyes. While Ruckert wasn't overly utilized in the offense in Columbus, he will undoubtedly be missed, and now the program has to figure out what is next at the spot.
From what we saw for the majority of last season, you would have expected Cade Stover, a former four-star linebacker from Lexington (OH), to be next in line at the position after pretty much spending all of last season with tight ends coach Kevin Wilson and the rest of the tight ends. Prior to the loss against Michigan though, Stover would head back to the position that he was recruited at and finish the final two contests of the year on the defensive side of the ball. All indications are that will be a permanent move for Stover at this time, as head coach Ryan Day revealed that the one-time Ohio High School Gatorade Player of the Year would like to begin the offseason with the linebackers.
That leaves the Buckeyes with former walk-on and now scholarship tight end/fullback Mitch Rossi, who announced his return to Ohio State towards the conclusion of last month, and a quartet of prospects that simply lack live game experience thus far in incoming freshman Bennett Christian, redshirt freshman Sam Hart, redshirt sophomore Joe Royer and junior Gee Scott.
Is the transfer portal the solution? Ohio State has already kicked the tires on former Oklahoma tight end Austin Stogner, who would wind up committing to South Carolina. Regardless of what the answer becomes for the Buckeyes in the upcoming season, the position should be of high importance in the 2023 recruiting class, and it's imperative that they double dip at tight end in the cycle.
Just over six months ago, Ohio State actually had a tight end duo committed in their 2022 recruiting when the aforementioned Christian and four-star tight end Benji Gosnell of Carroll County (NC) were both verbal pledges to the program. Gosnell, the No. 17 tight end in the country, ultimately backed off of his verbal to Ohio State after being committed for approximately nine months, and would instead ink with Virginia Tech.
With a pairing not coming to fruition in the most recent haul, one would expect that the Buckeyes would strongly consider trying it once again in the 2023 class. By the looks of it, that indeed seems to be the case here.
Already in the fold for the scarlet and gray is four-star tight end Ty Lockwood of Independence (TN). The 6-foot-5, 225-pounder is currently penciled in as the ninth-best tight end in the class and a top-150 prospect overall. But that hasn't stopped Ohio State from pursuing a host of other players at the position.
The Buckeyes have sent out offers to double-digit tight ends in the 2023 class as a whole, including Lockwood. Some of those have already found their future homes, while a host of others have received a scholarship opportunity from Ohio State even after the pledge from Lockwood in August.
Some names still on the market to watch closely going forward as the Buckeyes hope to pair up someone with Lockwood include the likes of Jaxon Howard of Robbinsdale Cooper (MN), Mac Markway of DeSmet (MO), Walker Lyons of Folsom (CA), Duce Robinson of Pinnacle (AZ), Jelani Thurman of Langston Hughes (GA), and Riley Williams of Central Catholic (OR). Ohio State has also extended offers to four-star tight ends Ethan Davis of Collins Hill (GA) and Brett Norflett of Francis Howell (MO) in recent weeks, who are committed to Tennessee and Missouri, respectively.
While more names are likely to emerge, it is worth mentioning that Howard, a top-100 prospect, included the Buckeyes in his top group that he revealed in September. While Lyons, the No. 4 tight end in the class, also included Ohio State in his top schools back in November.