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Ohio State tight end Jeremy Ruckert builds toward fall football season

Joey Kaufman
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State tight end Jeremy Ruckert catches a 16-yard touchdown pass during the Big Ten championship game against Wisconsin on Dec. 7. [Adam Cairns/Dispatch]

Jeremy Ruckert holds an interest in art design and construction.

“I definitely would say that’s my type of thing,” the Ohio State junior tight end said.

A creative mind was put to the test when he returned home to Long Island earlier this year, a time at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic when most of Ohio State’s players were scattered across the country with spring practices shut down and athletics facilities closed.

Needing somewhere to lift weights, Ruckert built a squat rack at his parents’ house. The project was hastened by precaution.

Ruckert was first working out with friends in a neighboring garage, but as the pandemic worsened, seeing New York take the initial brunt of virus cases in the U.S., his parents asked him to remain home.

His father, Bill, was charged with supplying building materials, fetching wood and other supplies over a few trips to their local Home Depot store. Videos offered them some guidance for the do-it-yourself project.

“It really was something that not only was it good for me to keep getting workouts in and be safe,” Ruckert said, “but it was cool to be able to do that with my dad and my brothers and get to spend some family time that normally we wouldn't really get. It was really cool.”

Like the rest of his teammates, Ruckert returned to Columbus in June when players were first permitted to again work out at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

But Ruckert’s building efforts in the spring highlight the lengths to which the Buckeyes’ players have taken in preparing for this off-again, on-again fall season.

Most have gone to great lengths to stay in shape as the season has been in peril at several points in the leadup to a restart next month. When the season was postponed, on Aug. 11, Ruckert said he was devastated,

“Just all the work we put in this whole time, going home, doing all the workouts at home and staying on track as a team, and then just to be told that you don't get the chance to go out there and play was heartbreaking,” Ruckert said. “But we didn't skip a beat, we got back to work, we kept working.”

Ruckert was the top pass-catching tight end for Ohio State last season, hauling in 14 receptions for 142 yards and four touchdowns, including a memorable one-handed snag for a score in the Big Ten championship game victory over Wisconsin.

He sees his third season in the program this fall as a chance to help the Buckeyes compete for a national championship and take another leap forward after a long offseason.

“I just want to keep improving as an all-around tight end,” he said. “I feel like I've gotten a lot stronger this offseason. So hopefully, that'll be put on display this year, and in my blocking and everything like that, I really just want to step it up all in all three aspects.”

The only scholarship tight end to leave Ohio State after last season was Rashod Berry, leaving Ruckert to return alongside others, including Luke Farrell and Jake Hausmann.

Offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said the group had the chance to be the best collection of tight ends he had coached since arriving in 2017 and coaching the position group.

Wilson said he was impressed by their effort throughout the offseason, which began during a handful of spring practices and study of NFL tight ends. They had also benefited from a chance for development.

“They're all older,” Wilson said, “they're more confident, they've had more time, even though it's been away to some degree.”

They’re eager to show progress on the field in a month.

jkaufman@dispatch.com

@joeyrkaufman