Cade Stover Ohio State Buckeyes Tight End

Spring Preview: Year Of The Tight End Begins In Spring


The Buckeyes return every scholarship tight end from last season, save for fullback hybrid Mitch Rossi. Starter Cade Stover is back. He caught a pass in every game last season, which was the first time a Buckeye tight end has done that since Marcus Baugh in 2017. Gee Scott and Joe Royer return as reserves looking for larger roles in 2023. Behind them are three young players looking to make an impression this spring on new tight ends coach Keenan Bailey.

Scholarship Roster

Cade Stover, rSr, 6-4 255
Returning starter posted big numbers for a Buckeye tight end last year.

Gee Scott, rJr, 6-3 239
Opportunity to establish himself as a clear No. 2 this spring.

Joe Royer, rJr, 6-5 245
Looking to prove he can be a legitimate piece of this offense.

Sam Hart, rSoph, 6-5 245
May still be a year away given the experience in front of him.

Bennett Christian, rFr, 6-5 245
Only played in two games last year as a true freshman, which is typical.

Jelani Thurman, Fr, 6-6 225
Thurman has a ton of potential, but freshmen can get lost quickly.

For Starters

Starter Cade Stover is back after a season where he finished third on the team with 36 receptions, and fourth on the team with 406 yards and five touchdown catches. While the numbers were the most for a Buckeye tight end in many years, there is still plenty of room for improvement as both a run blocker and pass catcher. Stover was one of the top tight ends in the Big Ten last year. This spring, however, he may take a back seat to allow some of the younger players to get reps.

New Additions

Jelani Thurman is a true freshman who has enrolled early. He was the No. 4 tight end in the 2023 class and a Top 100 prospect overall. He still has to grow into his 6-foot-6, 225-pound frame, but that process is already underway. Thurman is a dynamic pass catcher, but will obviously go through the freshman ordeal of becoming a better blocker. He posted over 1,000 yards receiving over his final two seasons at Langston Hughes High School in Fairburn, Georgia. There is a ton to like here, but spring is going to be a time of immense learning for Thurman.

Spring Depth Chart

8Cade Stover, rSr
88Gee Scott, rJr OR
84Joe Royer, rJr
81Sam Hart, rSoph OR
86Bennett Christian, rFr
49Patrick Gurd, rJr (walk-on) OR
89Zak Herbstreit, rSoph (walk-on) OR
NAJelani Thurman, Fr

What’s the Latest?

The biggest news here is new tight ends coach Keenan Bailey. Bailey has handled all sorts of jobs throughout his 8-year career at Ohio State, but is now finally a full-fledged assistant coach. He has worked with every position group on offense in his time with the Buckeyes, including the tight ends and offensive line last year. Bailey has also spent time working with the OSU receivers, so his experience at both positions should work well for him now.


The tight ends should be a position of strength this year, but the spring will be about advancing the players behind starter Cade Stover. Stover won’t need to be overly involved. They need to figure out the pecking order heading into fall camp, and who may or may not be pecking at all. The Buckeyes have invested a lot of scholarships in their tight ends. This spring will be about developing the return on that investment.

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One Question Needing An Answer

Is there a fullback in the house? The Buckeyes enjoyed having a fullback as part of their offense, but now with Mitch Rossi gone, will they simply scrap that plan, or put somebody new there. Would they use one of their many tight ends — most of whom are 6-foot-5 and don’t resemble a fullback in any way? Or could they turn to a walk-on — just as they did with Rossi way back when — and give 6-foot-2 tight end Zak Herbstreit a look? Spring will be a big deal for more than just the Buckeyes’ scholarship tight ends.

Breakout Candidate

With Mitch Rossi graduating, the Buckeyes need to find more than one tight end that they can trust. That process begins this spring. There are more options here than maybe ever before, but the reliability is still an unknown. The Buckeyes love to play two tight ends at a time in their personnel packages, so somebody else needs to step up. Don’t be surprised when you hear good things about both Gee Scott and Joe Royer this spring. They are both in a competition and both will get more action this spring than maybe they’ve ever had. There is a vital role up for grabs, and both could end up grabbing that role.


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