While there seem to be several starting spots already settled heading into spring ball, there are a few positions that are more up for grabs. One such spot will be the starting tight end position.
Of course, there can be more than one “starting” tight end, depending on the personnel group that is sent out onto the field for the first play of the game. Cade Stover was the starter at tight end the last couple of seasons, but Gee Scott Jr. saw the field quite a bit as well, particularly in two tight end sets.
But heading into 2024, with Stover having no more eligibility, the starting spot and the second tight end position in certain sets is an open battle. Scott might seem to have a leg up on the competition, given how much he’s played in the past. However, He hasn’t quite materialized as either the receiver or the blocker from the position just yet — at least not to the level Ryan Day needs.
Stover tied for the second-most receptions on the Buckeyes in 2023, catching 41 passes for 576 yards and five touchdowns. Scott was second among the OSU tight ends last year, but pulled in just 10 receptions for 70 yards and one touchdown. Freshman Jelani Thurman caught two passes for 18 yards this past season.
Thurman looks the part, but can he make the leap and force his way onto the field more this season? That will be the biggest question.
Another question will be where Christian Bennett finds himself in the battle this spring. Bennett was suspended for the 2023 season due to testing positive for a banned substance. That suspension was announced in mid-August of last year. According to Bennett’s statement at the time, the former four-star prospect out of Georgia had been taking a supplement that contained a banned substance. He was ruled ineligible until January 2024.
But the starter might not be one of the Buckeyes’ returning tight ends.
Ohio University transfer Will Kacmarek arrived via the transfer portal and will look to claim the top spot with his willingness (and ability) to block. Kacmarek caught 22 passes last season at Ohio for 243 yards and two touchdowns. He was fourth on the Bobcats in all three of those categories.
Those aren’t eye-popping numbers, but Kacmarek’s value to the Buckeyes will be in helping protect the quarterback, assisting the run game with more effective in-line blocking than Ohio State has seen from the position in a couple of seasons, and springing his teammates with a timely block downfield after the ball has been caught.
So, how will this all shake out by the end of spring? It seems likely that Scott will be named the “starter,” but I expect a lot of Scott and Kacmarek on the field together. The duo can both catch the ball, and the OU transfer will be called upon to help clear the way for his teammates.
However, I don’t think it’s a slam dunk. Thurman is an intriguing athlete and could make some noise in the spring. The competition seems to be between those three and some combination of two of those three will be on the field a lot. Perhaps Bennett can make it a four-way race, but he’ll have to shake off the suspension year.