The tight ends in Ohio State’s offense were likely to play a significant role in the offense this season before Braxton Miller was lost for the season with a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. Now, with redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett at the helm, it would seem that the tight ends will get even more throws their way as they become potential safety valves for the freshman behind an inexperienced offensive line.
The tight end group is anchored by Jeff Heuerman, who led the team last season in yards per reception at 17.9. Heuerman played in every game, pulling in 26 catches for 466 yards and four touchdowns. The senior from Naples, Fla. has been named to the Mackey Award watch list this preseason for the nation’s top tight end, which is no surprise given the flashes of big-play potential Heuerman showed last season.
Among the big plays Heuerman produced last season was a 57-yard touchdown catch and run in the Orange Bowl against Clemson and a 22-yard touchdown against Michigan. He also had a big game against Purdue (who didn’t?), racking up 116 yards on five grabs on his way to being named the Mackey Award national player of the week. Heuerman earned honorable mention All-Big Ten accolades from both the coaches and the media last season.
Poised for a breakout year is junior Nick Vannett. The Westerville Central grad played in 25 games over the past two seasons, recording 17 receptions for 203 yards and one touchdown, with the lone touchdown coming in the victory over Purdue last year. After just eight catches in 2013, don’t be surprised if Vannett doubles that total this season as he becomes a bigger part of the Buckeye offense.
The third tight end of the group is redshirt freshman Marcus Baugh. A four-star recruit coming out of high school, Baugh was a top-150 player across all the major recruiting sites. Listed as the No. 3 tight end in the country in the class of 2013 by ESPN, Scout, and 247Sports, Baugh played in the Under Armour All-American Game in 2013. Baugh was an extremely productive receiver during his days at John W. North High School in Riverside, Ca, where he caught 68 passes for 1,138 yards and 10 touchdowns over his final two years.
With all of the weapons Ohio State has on offense, it’s easy to overlook the tight end position. It would not be wise to do so. Heuerman and Vannett have proven that they have the ability to make the big play on the collegiate level and Baugh certainly has the potential to do the same. Look for 30-35 catches from Heuerman and 10-15 from Vannett. At this point, any contribution from Marcus Baugh would just be icing on the cake for the offense.
What do you think of the Buckeye tight end group? Does Heuerman have what it takes to bring home the Mackey Award? Let us know in the comments what you’re looking for from the tight ends this season.