The speculation, debate and conversations about Ohio State never end, and Lettermen Row is always ready to dive into the discussions. All week long, senior writer Austin Ward will field topics about the Buckeyes submitted by readers and break down anything that’s on the minds of the Best Damn Fans in the Land. Have a question that needs to be tackled, like the one today about the Ohio State and the tight ends? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.
What happened to the TE's ? by my count none have caught a pass since first game?
— Global Trucker (@GlobalTruckerTw) September 17, 2019
The season opener offered a glimmer of hope for Ohio State that this year might really be different when it comes to using the tight ends in the passing attack more consistently.
And that could easily still wind up being the case for the Buckeyes. Right now, though, that unit is going through a catch drought after two full games without one for anybody at that position — which means it’s time for another reminder that receptions aren’t the only way to evaluate the success of the tight ends.
Yes, Jeremy Ruckert showed how valuable he can be as a target in the opener with four catches and a couple touchdowns. Luke Farrell was a useful decoy in some intriguing route concepts alongside him in that easy win, and he was also the primary read on one play that wound up going to Ruckert instead. At some point, both of those guys and Rashod Berry will get the football again, that’s a guarantee.
But after seeing what those tight ends can do, opposing defenses are obviously going to adjust. That’s just one part of a complicated equation when it comes to usage in the passing attack, since Ohio State isn’t going to force passes to anybody just for the sake of getting them in the box score. The tight ends for the Buckeyes know that as well as anybody, which is why they take so much pride in their work as blockers.
Farrell has been a champion in each of the last two games. He didn’t need a catch to earn that grade, and the veteran at the position surely didn’t stress about it after the win at Indiana considering the role Farrell played in opening up holes for a rushing attack that steamrolled to 314 yards. Farrell, Ruckert, Berry and Jake Hausmann have all been getting consistent playing time for a team that hasn’t been shy about putting two or three tight ends on the field, so Ohio State clearly values the contributions it’s getting from that unit.
The Buckeyes only completed 17 passes in that win against the Hoosiers, so it’s also not like there were a ton of touches to go around in the Big Ten opener. Even position coach Kevin Wilson has publicly talked about the coaching philosophy of making a list of the best playmakers on offense and placing an emphasis on getting those guys the football. Ruckert has potential to be a game-changer, there’s no doubt. But where, for example, would the tight ends really rank compared to guys like Chris Olave, Binjimen Victor, K.J. Hill, Garrett Wilson or J.K. Dobbins?
None of this is meant to even remotely suggest that Ohio State won’t throw to the tight ends moving forward. But through three games, it also has barely scratched the surface for what it can do offensively this season since it’s been playing such overmatched opponents. The Buckeyes are undoubtedly going to get Ruckert more involved, Farrell has the full confidence of the coaching staff to get the football at times and Berry has already proven in his career that his athleticism can be a big boost to the attack.
In the end, though, Ohio State is already establishing itself as one of the most prolific offenses in the country. The tight ends are a major part of the success, and that’s true whether they get a bunch of receptions or not.
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