Somehow one position at Ohio State manages to be the most talked about and most overlooked every year.
That is tight end, where annual questions about how much they will touch the ball are generally followed by them not touching the ball very much.
This time around, the group is full of veterans who could contribute mightily — whether it shows up on the stat sheet or not.
Returning starter: Luke Farrell
Risers: Rashod Berry, Jeremy Ruckert
Others to watch: Jake Hasumann, Derrick Malone, Brock Davin
Newcomer: Cormantae Hamilton
Farrell, a junior from Perry, Ohio, ended the season as the regular starter after alternating with Berry in the first seven games. The 6-6, 250-pounder caught 20 passes for 205 yards and a touchdown last season.
Berry has played quite a bit over the past two years, but we put the fifth-year senior in the “riser” category because he might still have a bigger role this year. A former basketball star at Lorain, he has considerable athleticism, can move around in the formation, block and catch. He caught nine passes for 78 yards last season and found the end zone twice.
Ruckert, a five-star recruit who had some solid cameos as a true freshman last fall, is thought of as a receiver first, but coach Kevin Wilson said all his tight ends must be able to block and catch if they are going to see the field.
Ruckert and Berry could be more natural fits as “move” players who line up at fullback, on the wing or in the slot at various times, rather than on the line of scrimmage.
Malone is a fifth-year senior walk-on from Thurgood Marshall High School.
Hamilton is a 6-2, 263-pound three-star recruit from Memphis, Tenn., who could also project as an H-back type.
Quotable: Kevin Wilson: “I think we’ll play a little bit of two tight ends with Jeremy Ruckert or Luke Farrell or Rashod or even Jake Hausmann is having his best offseason.
“If you ask the coaches, maybe the best group on the football team right now would be that tight end group. It’s a very impressive group. Physically, and now are they great route runners? They’re pretty good. They’re going to be on the field more, and they’ll have a chance to get more (touches).”
“I’m not into the number (of catches), but when you’re a dynamic team, a lot of guys get the ball. When you’re a really good offense, you’ve got to be good at tight end. When you’re not good at tight end, you run the quarterback too much or you throw too much. You’ve got to be good at tight end. I don’t know how many catches they’re going to have. It’s going to be one of the best groups. I mean, it’s a grown-man group. Jeremy Ruckert is a grown man. It is an awesome group. It has a chance.”