Now that Spring Football is over, it’s time to revisit what we just saw. We’ll continue to go through each position group for the next week discussing what was learned and what still needs to happen for the Buckeyes. Next up will be tight ends at Ohio State.
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Position quick view
Fourth-year junior Cade Stover is back at tight end and probably the No. 1 guy right now. Fullback Mitch Rossi returns for his sixth season to bring his run-blocking (and pass-catching) prowess. Junior Gee Scott continues to grow after his stint as receiver. Redshirt sophomore Joe Royer was ready to move up the ranks after solid bowl preparation. Redshirt rookie Sam Hart follows the Royer lead. Real freshman Bennett Christian arrived in the winter. This group has 16 career catches.
In the spring, it was expected that Cade Stover would stay at linebacker and Joe Royer and Gee Scott would battle for the starting position. There wasn’t necessarily one player expected to emerge as a starter over another due to inexperience and differences in respective skill sets. After that, perhaps the Buckeyes would eventually turn to the post-spring transfer portal to help their depth.
The reality that comes out
The reality that stands out is that shortly after the start of the spring ball, Cade Stover asked to return to the tight end. As the true No. 2 tight end for the Buckeyes last season, he brings back the kind of experience the position lacked. His return didn’t stop any of the other ongoing battles at that position, though, as the Buckeyes will always need more than one tight end to keep this offense humming along.
The only real surprise was the return of Cade Stover, but that probably wasn’t much of a surprise. It was certainly a happy turn of events when Stover spoke to his coaches about the move, however. Stover is the most experienced of the tight ends on the line, which gives him an advantage in playing time as the Buckeyes always want to run the ball and this position is essential for that to happen.
If Cade Stover is the starter, who is the second tight end? The answer to this question is probably a moving target as it depends on the situation. If the Buckeyes want to run the ball with a fullback or an H-back, it’s likely to be Mitch Rossi. When they want to be able to keep a defense on the field with 12 people, they can go for Joe Royer or Gee Scott. The Buckeyes have valets of all trades in this position, but they must also continue to develop proficiency.
So now the work continues. Gee Scott and Joe Royer will be in the weight room and Cade Stover will hang out with the JUGS machine. And then they will all alternate. The best way for any of these guys to stay on the field is to never give the coaches a reason to take them out. The summer will see everyone striving to be the type of reliable and versatile player that they can be.
The Buckeyes have six purse tight ends that have varying degrees of skills, attributes and experience. They can fill a number of roles in this offense, but it’s questionable whether or not one guy can do everything he needs to. Each of the players in the tight end room is working to show that they can be counted on, but that process is constantly ongoing.
Are we sure?
Are we sure Cade Stover will be the all-season starter for the Buckeyes? The Buckeyes have varied who starts at skill positions depending on what they want to do with their first possession, so there could be weeks when it won’t be Stover who opens things up. There’s also definitely an opportunity for Gee Scott and Joe Royer to establish themselves as the Buckeyes’ best option. The dream scenario for Ohio State is that they open spring without starting tight ends and close fall camp with three.
“To be good, as good as the receivers are, we still have to find ways to get them on the field and work them into progression. But they have to earn the right, as Coach Day would say, “to control the ball.” You have to be outside every day and show CJ that you are going to separate and open up. Otherwise, he goes somewhere else, or else we put someone else in this business. So I see Mitch [Rossi], with time, being only 21, bit of a tight end but a bit of a back end, a guy on the move. I see Cade [Stover] being a tight end that we’ll see where the overshoot develops, which I think could get high. I really like the way Joe [Royer] and Gee [Scott] arrived, who are a little more athletic, “I can catch” but arrive in the blocking. Gee probably does as well as any of those guys with bouldering fundamentals. He just gets stronger and more consistent with it. So in a perfect world you put them in the field and if they get big we lay them out. And you have guys who can open up. And if they go low, we have bigger bodies and you control the line of scrimmage and assist the line. – Offensive coordinator and tight ends coach Kevin Wilson on his position room.
|16 Cade Cycling Shorts | Junior Red Shirt | 6-4,255|
|Cade Stover’s story is well known by now, but it looks like he’s finally settled down at tight end and isn’t going anywhere else. He brings physicality and experience, which the position requires.|
|34 Mitch Rossi | Graduate | 6-1,245 OR|
|Mitch Rossi is a former extra who may not fit the tight ends mold, but he more than fits the Buckeye mold. He is valuable and effective as a second tight end in a fullback/fullback role.|
|88 Gee Scott | junior | 6-3,230 OR|
|Gee Scott continues to get bigger, stronger and better as a blocker. Had a very good spring game catching the ball in midfield. The process continues to trust.|
|84 Joe Royer | Red Sophomore Shirt | 6-5 245|
|Joe Royer has the advantage of already being tight in size and he took advantage of that this spring. He showed athleticism on a touchdown in the spring game while being covered by a cornerback, for example.|
|81 Sam Hart | Freshman in red shirt | 6-5,245 OR|
|The tight end at OSU is often a developmental position that can take a few years before a player is ready. Joe Royer didn’t play much last year and Sam Hart seems to be following the same path.|
|85 Christian Bennet | Freshman | 6-6 245|
|Bennett Christian has been Ohio State’s biggest and most natural tight end for quite some time, but he’s still very young. However, he has gained good experience this spring.|
[Joe Royer header photo courtesy of the Ohio State Dept. of Athletics.]