Dave Thurman (5:48 pm)
One of the big news items this winter (and let's face it it this is a down time for Buckeye football news) is the move of Jake Stoneburner to tight end, which had been rumored for quite some time, but was only recently substantiated. Naturally there are divergent opinions on this subject, with some fans quite angry, hoping that Stoneburner would become a big downfield target, blending a rare package of size and speed. And, many felt he would be a great option in the corner of the end zone, being employed kind of like Terrelle Pryor was in the Fiesta Bowl against Texas.
Well I, for one, am quite excited by the possibilities of this change of position, and feel it might well signal the beginning of a new era in which Tressel begins to use the tight end as a viable offensive weapon, and not just a glorified tackle.
Just how little has the tight end been used in our recent offensive scheme? Is it just our imagination or have we truly failed to utilize this position adequately? Well, take a look at the past three years and judge for yourselves:
2008 - All of 11 catches by the tight end (6 to Nichol; 5 to Ballard)! Brandon Smith did catch 8 balls but those were all out of the backfield as a fullback.
2007 - A whopping total of 32 catches (16 to Nichol; 13 to Ballard; and
3 to Smith) which actually gave us momentary hope for the future!
2006 - 15 catches by our tight ends (13 to Nichol; 2 to Ballard)
To put that in perspective, consider that Travis Beckum of Wisconsin caught 75 balls by himself in 2007 (his last healthy season as he missed much of 2008 due to injury).
Obviously we have not maximized this position and it hasn't all been due to a lack of talent. Ballard, in particular, has wonderful hands and should have been used more, but will never be considered a speed-merchant. Jake Stoneburner, on the other hand, has excellent speed, and would likely be the fastest tight end in OSU history. Putting a big time athlete like him at tight end would certainly seem to be for the purpose of adding another weapon to the OSU arsenal. That gets my blood pumping in eager anticipation.
Truth is, I have nightmares in which I see Kellen Winslow Jr. cutting across the middle for another big gain during the 2003 National Championship Game. His size and speed made him a terrible mismatch when lined up against any linebacker, even the speedy Cie Grant. USC used Fred Davis the same way during his senior season, and the aforementioned Travis Beckum tormented the Big Ten with over 130 catches during his sophomore and junior seasons.
That's why I like this move. We need to get Jake on the field and there is a glut of talent at wideout. On the other hand, tight end has only one experienced returner and we need to start utilizing this position, realizing that linebackers aren't usually equipped to be great pass defenders.
So, here's hoping 2009 will be remembered as the year we rediscovered the tight end!