We continue our rankings of the top 10 offensive playmakers on this year’s Ohio State football team. The No. 6 player on this list once had six tackles in the Rose Bowl and a season later he had six catches in a game at Penn State.
No. 6 – Cade Stover, Fifth-Year Senior, TE
This time a year ago, the last playing time in a game for Cade Stover came as a linebacker in the Rose Bowl. He moved back to tight end last spring, and then proceeded to post one of the best seasons at the position in Ohio State history.
Stover’s 36 catches last year were good for third on the team, and the most for an Ohio State tight end since Rickey Dudley caught 37 passes for 575 yards and 7 touchdowns in 1995. He was a consistent threat in the passing game, catching at least one pass in every game last year. The last OSU tight end to catch a pass in every game for an entire season was Marcus Baugh in 2017.
Stover finished with 406 yards receiving on his 36 catches, scoring five touchdowns. He scored twice against both Wisconsin and Indiana last season.
The biggest play of Cade Stover’s pass-catching career likely came last year against Penn State. With OSU leading the Nittany Lions 23-21 with 8:26 left in the fourth quarter, Stover leaked out over the middle of the field and caught a pass from quarterback CJ Stroud. Stover then ran through three tackle attempts on his way to a 24-yard touchdown that gave the Buckeyes some breathing room while also taking the wind out of the Penn State sails.
Like many players throughout Big Ten history, Cade Stover’s longest play came against the Indiana Hoosiers. It was early in the first quarter of last year’s game. Stover took some steps to his right, showing that he was going to be a potential blocker for a swing pass to the running back. Instead, it became a wheel route to Stover, who ran past the defenders focused on the swing pass. He was taken down inside the 10-yard line for a 37-yard gain.
What He Does Well
Cade Stover does a great job of stretching the field. He was very effective down the seam and on the sidelines. He also showed an ability to avoid tacklers, such as his aforementioned touchdown against Penn State, his leap over a Wisconsin tackler, or his hurdle over a Hawkeye last year.
Georgia All-American tight end Brock Bowers had five catches of 30 yards or more last season. Stover had four. Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer had three. No tight end in the Big Ten had more than Stover’s eight 20-yard receptions, and only Iowa’s Sam LaPorta had more catches of 30 yards (6) than Stover’s four.
Expectations For This Season
Being an Ohio State tight end means that an opposing defense is rarely going to make you priority No. 1 when it comes to game planning. Because of this, the Buckeyes will again be able to use Cade Stover in a number of ways. So many of his biggest plays last year began with deception. Whether it was holding a block before getting into his route, or showing a blocking stance before taking off, or simply getting lost in the muck, Stover was an effective part of this Ohio State offense.
The question this year is how will his targets be impacted by the Buckeyes having a new starting quarterback. Does Stover turn into a security blanket or an afterthought? The quarterbacks are supposed to take what a defense gives them, and with the talent at wide receiver, it stands to reason that the defense is going to be much more willing to give up plays to a tight end than a future first-round pick at wide receiver.