With spring football now in the rearview mirror for Ohio State, it’s time to look back at what happened with each position group and where things currently stand for the Buckeyes. Up next will be the tight ends.
Quick Position Overview
The Buckeyes have six tight ends on scholarship. Starter Cade Stover returns for his final go-round. Fourth-year juniors Gee Scott, Jr. and Joe Royer both move up a spot thanks to the departure of valued fullback Mitch Rossi. Redshirt sophomore Sam Hart, redshirt freshman Bennett Christian, and true freshman Jelani Thurman will all be competing to find some kind of role in a very deep room. Walk-on Patrick Gurd has been around for a few years and could factor in somewhere as well.
Expectations Going In
Since Cade Stover is the clearly established starter, it was expected that Gee Scott and Joe Royer would be competing to be the second tight end. Then while that was going on, there would be a free-for-all behind them as Bennett Christian, Sam Hart, and Jelani Thurman all look to make enough noise to grab new tight ends coach Keenan Bailey’s attention.
Reality Coming Out
Based on what was seen throughout the spring, Joe Royer and Gee Scott emerged pretty close in their competition. That competition will continue into fall camp, but it could also be a week-to-week situation based on the opponent and how the Buckeye offense wants to attack a defense. Jelani Thurman was very impressive and put a good amount of pressure on Sam Hart and Bennett Christian. Patrick Gurd also repped quite a bit with the twos and threes.
Freshman Jelani Thurman was listed as a 225-pound recruit, but when he showed up this winter as a 250-pound prototype, the 6-foot-6 early enrollee turned heads. He already looks the part of a college tight end, but he was also an effective pass catcher throughout spring. Given the depth that this position has, it was a bit surprising to see him getting quite a bit of time in scrimmages. Thurman has a legit chance to be Ohio State’s fourth tight end this season if he continues his current trajectory.
Is there a Mitch Rossi in the house? As the Buckeyes’ de facto fullback last season, Rossi played twice as many snaps as No. 3 tight end Gee Scott. Clearly, head coach Ryan Day liked what having a fullback brought to the offense. There weren’t any undersized tight ends being used in 12 personnel packages this spring, so the Buckeyes may have to go in a different direction when they are putting that second tight end on the field.
So Now What?
This summer will feature players getting to their required/desired weight. This has been a long process for Gee Scott, but he’s gotten more and more comfortable with the physicality of the position. He is now a viable receiver over the middle of the field, but it would nice to see his athleticism allowed to become more of a factor down the field as well. Joe Royer missed much of last season, so everything he does this summer will help him. He continues to get bigger and no longer looks like a big receiver playing tight end.
Cade Stover had the most receptions for an Ohio State tight end since first-round pick Rickey Dudley in 1995. He can be asked to do anything in this offense, but is he the only one? Can Gee Scott play any role they need a tight end to play? Can Joe Royer? Or will those two see the field based on their particular skillsets when complementing Stover? Stover played nearly 60 snaps per game last season, which he shouldn’t have to do this year. But how specialized will Keenan Bailey need to be with his rotation?
Are We Sure?
Are we sure there isn’t a legit role for Jelani Thurman this year?
“I told the guys I want to when I leave spring, know what value each guy can bring. And today we challenged them to be versatile. Look at a guy like Cade Stover. Everyone knows Cade as a big, dominant blocker, physical leader. When he came back, I told him, ‘You don’t grow when you’re comfortable.’ So for me to put him on the line and just go block D-ends, he’s not growing. So using him as an example, how many times can I make him uncomfortable this spring? Put him at positions he hasn’t played, give him drills he’s never done before, techniques he hasn’t used before. So for each guy I’m trying to make them uncomfortable so they can grow.” — Tight ends coach Keenan Bailey.
|8 Cade Stover, rSr|
|88 Gee Scott, rJr OR|
|84 Joe Royer, rJr|
|49 Patrick Gurd, rJr OR|
|81 Sam Hart, rSoph OR|
|85 Bennett Christian, rFr OR|
|15 Jelani Thurman, Fr|