Depth Chart: Tight End Breakdown

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Last updated: 05/23/2012 5:11 PM

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Football
Breaking Down Urban’s Depth Chart: Tight Ends
By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS, Ohio — In this new era of Ohio State football, two-deeps actually mean something now.

In fact, they mean a whole lot.

At least to Urban Meyer.

Ohio State’s first-year head coach released his first-ever depth chart this past week following the Buckeyes’ 15 spring practices back in April. There were not many surprises in the OSU two-deep, but there was plenty to talk about.

Their first game is on Sept. 1 in Ohio Stadium. How much different will the depth chart look three months from now? We’re going to break down Urban’s first depth chart for a closer look at how things might develop over the summer and during the 29 practices in the fall.

Let’s continue with the TIGHT ENDS…

Pre-spring pecking order:

Jake Stoneburner
Photo by Jim Davidson
Jake Stoneburner

Jake Stoneburner starting with Jeff Heuerman backing up and Nick Vannett jockeying for position.

There was some talk that Stoneburner might move to receiver in Meyer’s new offense, but ultimately he was pegged as the starting tight end for Ohio State during his senior season in Columbus.

Stoneburner caught 21 passes for 222 yards and a pair of touchdowns as a sophomore with Terrelle Pryor at quarterback in 2010. He snagged seven scores last season, accounting for half of his 14 catches during a tumultuous junior season that saw the Buckeyes use two ineffective throwing quarterbacks in Joe Bauserman and a freshman Braxton Miller.

The Dublin Coffman product showed glimpses of what he could do with three touchdown grabs in the opener against Akron, but Meyer challenged him to take his game to another level as a senior.

With Reid Fragel moving to offensive tackle for his senior year, it seemingly opened the door for Jeff Heuerman to grab the backup spot behind Stoneburner.

Post-spring depth chart:

Stoneburner out in front with Heuerman and Vannett listed as co-backups.

The spring got off to a slow start for Stoneburner, but by the end, he was being talked about as one of the few key playmakers for the Buckeyes on offense. They split him out wide a lot more than Ohio State had done during his first three years on the field, but Stoneburner also saw some time at the traditional tight end spot during the spring.

Jeff Heuerman
Photo by Jim Davidson
Jeff Huerman

The fact Ohio State wants to use Stoneburner outside more as a slot receiver makes Heuerman and Vannett all the more critical to Ohio State’s success. Fullback Zach Boren is going to see plenty of action as the team’s H-back this fall, but Heuerman and Vannett bring something a little different to the table.

Vannett is a kid we did not get to see much of last year. He got hurt early on and ended up taking a redshirt behind Stoneburner, Fragel and Heuerman. At 6-6, 248 pounds, the Westerville Central product has shown he can catch the ball, which is much more important for tight ends in Meyer’s new offensive system than it was previously.

Who is missing?:

The Buckeyes will add a fourth scholarship tight end to the mix this summer with the arrival of freshman Blake Thomas. A product of Cleveland St. Ignatius, Thomas was an early commitment to the Buckeyes who stuck with them during the scandal.

He is listed as 6-4, 240 and was really the only tight end Ohio State made a run at in the class of 2012. Rated as a 3-star prospect by both Rivals.com and Scout.com, Thomas committed to the Buckeyes in May, just weeks before the resignation of Jim Tressel.

Thomas is more of a traditional tight end than a guy like Stoneburner or even Heuerman and Vannett. He can block inside or slide out and play in the slot when needed, though he probably won’t do a lot of that at Ohio State. He isn’t as athletic as Stoneburner, who played receiver in high school, but he also isn’t a kid who won’t be able to transition to Meyer’s spread attack.

With three guys already fighting for playing time ahead of him, Thomas will probably redshirt in the fall, despite what Meyer says about not wanting to redshirt kids.

Susceptible to Change or Set in Stone:

Relatively set in stone.

We know who the top three guys are going to be, and we know which one is the starter, but there is some wiggle room on this one because Heuerman and Vannett are listed as co-backups on the post-spring depth chart. Heuerman is the guy who played last year as a freshman, and even caught a pass in the Gator Bowl.

He is a physical player, with good size and speed for the tight end position. One of them is probably going to win that backup job outright during fall camp, but it appears there will be an opportunity for both of them to play this fall.

The fact Ohio State doesn’t have a lot of experience at wide receiver makes Stoneburner all the more valuable as a pass-catcher. We probably won’t see nearly as much run-blocking from the fifth-year senior in 2012, which means he could be out there at times along with Heuerman or Vannett. 

Overall prognosis:

The fact Meyer went out of his way to mention Heuerman as a potential playmaker after the Spring Game probably gives him the slight edge over Vannett at this point. At 6-6, 247 pounds, Heuerman looked like the heir apparent to Stoneburner at tight end last season.

The 2012 season is still Stoneburner’s show. It could be—and by all accounts should be—his best season at Ohio State. Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman will put Stoneburner in a position to be successful. He is going to get a high volume of passes from quarterback Braxton Miller, he just has to be ready to catch them.

If Stoneburner can take his game to the next level, it’s possible he could be the team’s leading receiver in 2012. Go back and watch Stoneburner’s high school film. He doesn’t quite have those kind of wheels anymore (because he’s been playing tight end the last three years) but his ability to pick up yards after the catch makes him very dangerous.

For all the bellyaching about the tight end position before Meyer arrived, the Buckeyes are still relatively stacked for the future. Stoneburner is gone after this year, but Heuerman and Vannett give Meyer quality, capable backups.

Urban's take:

Probably the position I’m most-excited about right now is tight ends. Stoneburner has been really good. He runs like a (wide) receiver. We have three good-looking guys that you’d go out and recruit those guys any day of the week.”

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