Two Tight Ends Are Better Than One

OSU Football(Please welcome Ronnie Glickman (@ronnieglickman). We’re hoping that Ronnie becomes our “X’s and O’s guy here at Men of the Scarlet and Gray -Ed.)

There has been attention and excitement given to the Ohio State offense, under Urban Meyer and Tom Herman, prior to its second year. Braxton Miller is an early Heisman favorite at quarterback. Coach Meyer has dubbed Corey “Philly” Brown as a potential All Big Ten talent at wide receiver and Carlos Hyde has committed to rush for 1,000+ yards. Add in the return of Jordan Hall and the emergence of Chris Fields at the “hybrid” position. Place that alongside a recruiting class that includes the likes of speedsters and game breakers Jalin Marshall, Dontre Wilson, and James Clark, and the expectations continue to sky rocket for this offense.

However, there is one important position that may be the most productive and reliable out of any of the aforementioned. The tight end/H-Back position has been one that has thrived under the instruction of not only Urban Meyer, but also Tom Herman. As many are aware, Meyer had a great deal of success at Florida with Aaron Hernandez in the TE position. Hernandez racked up 68 catches in his 2009 season at Florida which is more than current Buckeye receiver Corey Brown’s total from last year. As some may not be so aware, Herman had more success with current NFL tight end James Casey while they were at Rice from 2007-2008. Casey put up gaudy numbers in the 2008 season, racking up 111 catches for 1,329 yards and 13 TD’s in his 2008 season under Herman. In 2007, Casey still had an impressive 46 receptions for 585 yards and 4 TD’s.

While it would be unfair for Buckeye fans to expect that kind of production from Jeff Heuerman, whose name was added to the Mackey Award watch list for the nation’s best tight end, or from Nick Vannett, it would be fair to expect a boost in stats. Both players are 6’6” and around the 250-255 pound range, and both have enough speed to get behind linebackers and manhandle any defensive back attempting to cover them.

Coach Meyer has been quoted about the tight end position during this past offseason: “The tight end area is the best I’ve had, and I had Aaron Hernandez at Florida. I have two legitimate guys that are very good blockers, good receivers, Nick Vannett and Jeff Heuerman, so we’re going to utilize all of our personnel.”

If there was any additional doubt about Meyer and Herman’s commitment to getting the H-Back/TE role more solidified in the offense, look at their recruiting efforts for 2014: they are pushing hard to land someone to fill that role in the future. They are telling guys like Austin Roberts, Mike Gesicki, and possibly Sam Hubbard that they would want them as a big wide receiver target on the boundaries and would also utilize them as an H-back.

Buckeye fans should look for many more two tight end sets and utilization of the H-back in the upcoming season as Ohio State makes a push for the national title. Two tight end sets have become a very popular trend in the NFL, initially beginning with the Colts in the Peyton Manning era, and continuing with great effectiveness with the New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers. In this past offseason, Tom Herman confirmed that he did speak with some coaches from the San Francisco 49ers offense in reference to the “Diamond Formation.” Herman also stated that they received a lot of offensive film from the 49ers which would not rule out the possibility of Herman using a two tight end set such as the one seen below:


This is a pretty basic set that the 49ers used against the New England Patriots’ nickel package last season. This set includes two tight ends, one running back, and two wide receivers. One tight end (circled in yellow near the top) is lined up on the line of scrimmage as a slot receiver and the other is lined up just off the line of scrimmage, probably used as an H-Back. This type of base formation was used last season with Jake Stoneburner as the slot receiver and Heureman as the H-back. It proved to be versatile as it allowed the Buckeyes and 49ers to either cause mismatches in the passing game with the slot tight end on the nickel linebacker or the H-back on the nickel back. This formation also made downfield blocking much more effective as they now have two big mobile tight ends able to get their initial block and potentially move up to take care of the safeties downfield.

Not imaginative enough for you? Well leave it to the New England Patriots to give you a little more excitement. In the photo below, both tight ends are lined up at the bottom of the picture. This set includes two tight ends, two receivers and one running back, however it is changed a little bit from the last set. The two tight ends (circled) have been shifted to the bottom of the formation, but the Patriots also decided to throw two kinks in to this set. One is that they added a slot receiver with a little more speed to create another mismatch at the top of the formation. So Wes Welker, the slot receiver at the top of the field, could be a Chris Fields, Jordan Hall, Dontre Wilson, or Jalin Marshall.


The second kink being thrown in here is that the tight end at the very bottom of the screen is lined up as the Z receiver which leaves him one-on-one with the corner. This means a 6’6 255 lb. Jeff Heureman versus a 6’0 190 lb. defensive back. That match up may also force the deep safety to cheat more to that side of the field leaving speedsters like Brown, Smith, Fields, Wilson, and Marshall one-on-one with their man on the other side of the field.

As excited as Meyer and Herman are to have more speed on the offense, they should be equally, if not more excited, to have big versatile tight ends available at their dispense. The speed the Buckeyes will put on the field this fall will get them through the Big Ten schedule. However, when facing an SEC opponent who may be able to match that speed, a bigger stronger weapon may be the key to exposing a stubborn defense. It would be unfair to expect James Casey numbers from either one of our beloved Buckeye tight ends, although it would be fair to call on them more often to be more reliable and productive to help the Buckeyes to a national title game.

(Images via Bleacher Report)


  1. Every time I hear or read about 2 TE sets I instantly think back to Hayden Fry and Iowa of the 1980s. They had their TEs stand up at the end of the OL. I wish Urban would implement that look lol.

  2. I do love the stand-up TE look too.

    Every year for at least the last four, we’ve heard “this is the year Ohio State uses the tight end!” only to be sorely disappointed that it never materialized. We all wanted Stoneburner to be the Great Tightend. Now I wonder if it was more a commentary on how uncomfortable Jake was at TE and less how the coaches used him or the QB targeted him.

    It will be interesting to see if this actually is the year Ohio State uses the tight end.

    • I think Jake was uncomfortable at being a pure TE in The Ohio State offense. I’m a Packers fan so I have been keeping track of Jake in the Packers mini camps and he seems to be more comfortable in the role their using him which is a receiving tight end that can split out at the WR at times.

      I think this year we will see a jump in the use of tight ends. I think the Nebraska game is a good example of what the guys are capable of and will turn in to this year.

  3. Jake Ballard was another mystery. He was merely an afterthought in “Tresselball” and nothing more than a glorified offensive lineman. Then he moves onto the NFL and plays a crucial role in helping the Giants win Super Bowl XLVI.


  1. […] added another writer to the site, Ronnie. Ronnie will be bring us an insightful look at some of the schemes and technical aspects that the OSU football team will be employing this […]

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