The Buckeyes will be expecting a great deal of production from their tight ends this season. Urban Meyer claims they are the best tight ends he has ever had. Tight ends coach Tim Hinton called them 1 and 1A. “When 86 and 81 are out there, I feel really comfortable,” Hinton said. Each tight end checks in at 6-foot-6 with pass protection skill as well. They are part of the new era of tight ends that can be reliable targets in the passing game. So who are they?
Number 86 is Junior Jeff Heuerman. Heuerman brings incredible combination athletic ability and strength to the table with a 36.5 inch vertical and 33 repetitions of bench press (225 lbs). Heuerman earned some playing time at the end of the past season, starting the teams final seven games. Statistically, Heuerman only had nine catches last season for 119 yards and one touchdown. However, the athletic tight end had the most important reception of Ohio State’s season, catching the game-tying two-point conversion from backup QB Kenny Guiton (replacing the injured Braxton Miller) against Purdue. Ohio state would take the momentum into overtime for a miraculous comeback that preserved the perfect campaign. Number 81 is sophomore Nick Vannett. Vannett played all 12 games last season and also recorded nine catches for a total of 123 yards.
The two tight ends struggled to find their role in the offense, but are both confident that their second year in the new system will be more comfortable and more successful. Heuerman discussed the offense with the media:
This offense really gives the tight end the opportunity to do a lot of things. We’re in the backfield motioning around, we’re split out wide, lined up on the line at tight end, lined up at H-back. We’re lined up all over the place. It’s fun. It give us a lot of opportunities to do things traditional offenses, and other offenses don’t let you do.”
Heuerman, a high school hockey star, and Vannett, a high school basketball star, are at the front of the movement to establish the role of the tight end at Ohio State. Former Buckeye and now NFL player Jake Stoneburner had 21 receptions in 2010, a total which stands as the most for a tight end for the last decade of Ohio State football. Expect Heuerman and Vannett to both exceed that total and give the offense another option for star QB Braxton Miller.
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