Ohio State tight ends are unsung, but getting the job done

Bill Rabinowitz
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State tight end Jeremy Ruckert, here heading upfield after making a catch against Penn State, has accepted his primary role as a blocker in the Buckeyes' multifaceted offense.

Playing tight end for Ohio State can be a thankless position for those who care about accolades.

Nine Buckeyes were named to the Big Ten’s offensive all-conference teams on Tuesday. None of them were tight ends. You had to scour the coaches’ honorable mention section to see the names of Luke Farrell and Jeremy Ruckert.

Suffice to say that the Buckeyes value their tight ends more than the conference's media and opposing coaches do.

“It's the best group I've ever coached,” said offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, who coaches the tight ends as his position group. “Luke Farrell is as good a player as I’ve been around. Jeremy Ruckert is talented and becoming an outstanding blocker.”

As is typical for Ohio State, its tight ends hardly light up the receiving stat sheet. Heading into Saturday’s Big Ten championship game against Northwestern, Ruckert has nine catches, Farrell three and Jake Hausmann one.

The tight ends have come to terms with that. That might as well be part of the job description.

“I think we're very well-rounded as a unit,” Ruckert said Tuesday. “We pretty much do whatever they’ve asked us to do. The last couple weeks, it’s the protection game, and I feel like we did a pretty good job that, especially with a young offensive line.”

The Buckeyes used Farrell and Ruckert extensively as blockers against Michigan State two weeks ago when Ohio State had to use three new offensive linemen because of its COVID-19 outbreak.

“When they’re blocking the way they are and making plays, that’s huge for those guys,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “They deserve a lot of credit for the success of the run game the past few weeks.”

It’s not as if the tight ends aren’t capable receivers. Ruckert, in particular, is a gifted one. His one-handed snag for a touchdown started Ohio State’s comeback against Wisconsin after the Buckeyes trailed 21-7 at halftime in last year’s conference title game.

“It was obviously a special moment, and I was grateful to be in that moment,” Ruckert said. “But I don't really look back at it that much. A lot of people talk to me about it and reminisce about it with me. The only time I really talk about it is when someone talks about it to me.”

Ruckert, a junior from New York, has acknowledged that he was a novice as a blocker when he arrived on campus. He credits Farrell, a senior from Perry, Ohio, for helping turn him into a complete player.

Ohio State tight end Jeremy Ruckert said his teammate Luke Farrell (89) has helped him become a more complete player.

“I just can't say enough about how much he's meant to me in my career and how much he means to this team,” Ruckert said. “Pretty much every touchdown I've caught or every play I've made, it's because he either did the blocking for me or set up the route.

“He's one of the most unselfish guys that ever been around, and that kind of attitude spreads throughout our unit and our room. He does everything he can at the highest level and doesn't really say much about it.”

Ruckert was a coveted recruit. He knows he could have gone somewhere and been a featured target. But he fell in love with Ohio State’s culture.

“Obviously, you want to catch a lot of balls, and I feel like that was one of my strengths coming out,” Ruckert said. “But I wanted to become a complete player. I think there's no better place to do that than here."

Despite the lack of catches, Ruckert has never questioned his decision to become a Buckeye.

“You can go to other places and catch your balls and split out wide and everything," he said. "But I feel like coming here was a great decision for me for developing into a tough, all-around tight end, and I'm trying to keep getting better every day.”

If their value isn’t really acknowledged around the Big Ten, it is by their fellow Buckeyes.

“I think the tight ends are playing at a high level,” Day said.

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