“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” ~ Margaret Atwood
Personally, I am not sure if that is necessarily the case. Considering Ohio State plays and practices on FieldTurf, perhaps the Buckeyes smell more like the black rubber pellets that are underneath the field.
As Ohio State spring football has officially started, I have decided to write a series of articles on a weekly basis to identify and rank the position groups, from least to most concerning, as they pertain to the upcoming 2023 season. Each week, I will point out questions I have about these position groups, and it is my hope that several, if not all, of these questions will be answered by the Ohio State Spring Game on April 15.
The Tight Ends | Concern Ranking: 6th
- Scholarship Players Lost From The 2022 Squad: Mitch Rossi
- Scholarship Players Returning From The 2022 Squad: Bennett Christian, Sam Hart, Joe Royer, Gee Scott, Jr., Cade Stover
- Freshmen Players Participating In 2023 Spring Football: Jelani Thurman
Reason for my ranking: Ohio State returns the bulk of its tight end group, but the loss of Mitch Rossi as a hybrid fullback-tight end should not be minimized. Even with starter Cade Stover’s return, Ohio State needs to get a solid handle on which tight end(s) will be able to contribute for the upcoming 2023 season.
- Who can emerge as this season’s Mitch Rossi?
Listed at 6-foot-1, 250 pounds, Rossi was often used as a blocking fullback by Ohio State, as well as at tight end. Is there someone on the roster, such as Bennett Christian (listed at 6-foot-5, 245 pounds) or Sam Hart (listed at 6-foot-5, 248 pounds), who will take on this important role in 2023?
2. Can Jelani Thurman contribute as a true freshman in 2023?
Ohio State football recruiting fans exhaled when Jelani Thurman’s signed letter of intent arrived in December. The son of former WNBA player Kara Braxton and former Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Odell Thurman, Jelani enrolled early and made quite an impression in the first practice when viewed by the assembled media. Could Thurman move up the depth chart this spring and contribute as a true freshman?
Ryan Day said freshman tight end Jelani Thurman "has all the tools" as the 6-foot-6, 225-pound Georgia native enrolled early this spring.— Lantern Sports (@LanternSports) March 7, 2023
"This is a guy who just needs a ton of reps, and the more reps he gets, the better he's going to be."
3. Can Cade Stover stay healthy throughout the 2023 season?
Cade Stover had a strong 2022 season, with 36 receptions for 406 yards and 5 touchdowns. Stover had the most receptions by a tight end since Ben Hartsock had 33 receptions in 2003, and Stover’s return in 2023 was welcomed by Ohio State’s coaches and fans.
Unfortunately, injuries impacted Stover’s effectiveness down the home stretch of the season, and Ohio State fans could see the impact Stover’s absence had, especially in The Peach Bowl semi-final game versus Georgia.
Gee Scott Jr. (5 receptions for 28 yards, 1 touchdown) and Joe Royer (2 receptions for 10 yards) return, as well as all of the players listed above. Even so, Ohio State needs to figure out which player or players can play in the same manner as Cade Stover, in the event Stover misses time as he did in 2022.