May 9, 2013

Spring grades: tight ends

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- With spring practice now in the books, we find ourselves just three months away from the opening of Urban Meyer's second fall camp as the head coach at Ohio State. With that in mind, we're taking a look back at what we've seen and learned from each position group throughout this offseason, continuing with today's look at the Buckeyes' tight end stable.

Spring grade: A

Perhaps no position on the Ohio State roster received the type of praise that the tight ends did throughout this past spring. Speaking to ESPN's SportsCenter, Meyer proclaimed this year's unit the best he's been around, which is high praise considering that he coached Mackey Award winner Aaron Hernandez during his days at Florida.

The strength of the tight end unit starts with junior Jeff Heuerman, but don't sleep on Westerville native Nick Vannett. With both players similar in size and ability, expect for the Buckeyes to possess a lethal one-two punch at the position.

Spring surprise: Going deep

While tight ends have typically been viewed as a quarterback's safety valve, both Heuerman and Vannett have shown the ability to catch the deep ball and make big plays with their deceptive speed. This has added another wrinkle in OSU's already potent offense, much to the delight of tight ends and fullbacks coach Tim Hinton.

"The one thing they did in the spring is we were able to have some explosive plays with them," Hinton said. "They were always really, really good underneath, but what they learned to do throughout the spring is, you know, tight ends are never really going to outrun you, but when you get those tight ends matched up on defensive backs in space, their job is to maneuver their body, put their body between the ball and the defensive back. They really did a great job of figuring that out."

To be determined: Blake Thomas' role

While Heuerman and Vannett sit atop the depth chart in an undetermined order, Thomas is still trying to find his place on the team. Recruited to Ohio State before Meyer arrived on campus, Thomas doesn't appear to possess the athleticism that the Buckeyes head coach typically looks for in his tight ends.

Despite this, the redshirt freshman still performed admirably in OSU's spring game, recording two catches for 40 yards, including one 34-yard reception. His opportunities might not come often in 2013, but it'll be important for Thomas to make the most of them.

Looking ahead: Marcus Baugh

Of the incoming offensive weapons that Meyer has coming in this summer, Baugh is often overlooked. But don't be surprised if the four-star tight end foregoes a redshirt, in favor of making an instant impact in his freshman season.

Just how Baugh meshes with the OSU offense remains to be seen. But considering that he is the first tight end that Meyer recruited during his time in Columbus, look for him to make his presence felt sooner rather than later for the Buckeyes.


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