Perhaps it went unnoticed by most, but Jeremy Ruckert was at Ohio Stadium last week as Ohio State played its spring game.
A member of the 2018 recruiting class but not yet enrolled, the tight end prospect wasn’t on the playing field in a physical sense. But offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson already seemed to be putting together a mental video of Ruckert being on the field in the fall.
“I think he’ll be in the mix to play early as a receiver,” Wilson said this week. “And to be a complete player, is he strong enough and mature enough to block?”
He expects the latter to be the toughest challenge for Ruckert, 6 feet 5 and 247 pounds, of Lindenhurst, New York.
But Wilson, who coaches the tight ends, appears to be looking forward to working with Ruckert, arguably the most talented tight end recruited under coach Urban Meyer in terms of route-running and pass-catching. Ruckert was the 37th best overall prospect in the nation in the 2018 recruiting cycle, according to the 247Sports composite of the major recruiting services.
“It will be interesting because he is very talented, but very much so in a skill setting as a big receiver, great in the passing game,” Wilson said.
Although Ruckert likely will be challenged immediately from a physical sense in the jump to college football, Wilson doesn’t want to see him powerlifting to get bigger and stronger in a hurry.
“I know we are talking weekly when we visit (by phone) about, ‘What did you really do in workouts this week? I know you lifted. What’s your body weight like? How many times are you benching 225 (pounds)?’”
Ruckert said he’s at 10 reps on the 225-pound bench press, the benchmark for raw strength.
“He has a body that I don’t want him to try to work so hard on getting strong,” Wilson said. “He’s a long guy. I don’t want to have a high schooler with a bad back. … We’ve got to be smart, because … it’s a developmental position.”
The Buckeyes came out of spring with Luke Farrell the leader at the position. He was followed by Jake Hausmann, since Rashod Berry, who had been expected to replace the departed starter Marcus Baugh, dealt with shoulder stingers.
But Ruckert proved during his high school career, including an outstanding performance The Opening skills camp for elite prospects last summer, that he can stretch the field as a receiver. That’s the aspect Wilson hopes to exploit early.
“For him to really play significantly (early), how strong is he in the blocking game?” Wilson said. “How does he hold up? Because he’s going to have to block defensive ends? We’ll get phenomenal opportunity in practice” going against future teammates Nick Bosa, Chase Young and Jonathon Cooper.