Cade Stover looking to fill role as second tight end for Ohio State football
Cade Stover has been at tight end for only a year.
It was last spring when Ohio State moved him from defensive end to the offensive side of the ball.
But despite the little experience, Stover could step into an important role for the offense as soon as next season.
Following the departures of seniors Luke Farrell and Jake Hausmann, the Buckeyes are without a clear-cut No. 2 tight end after Jeremy Ruckert.
The issue was on coach Ryan Day’s mind when spring practice opened last month as he identified the development of depth at the position as an important area for the team’s overall progress.
In previous seasons, Day’s offense has leaned on double tight-end formations, pairing Ruckert alongside either Farrell or Hausmann.
Though Stover has practiced at tight end only for the past year, few candidates on the roster are as logical an option as the redshirt sophomore.
Most hold even less experience. Sam Hart is one of 15 early-enrollee freshmen, and Joe Royer redshirted last season.
The other scholarship tight end left on the roster? That’s Gee Scott Jr., who switched from receiver midway through spring practice.
About midway through spring practice, Day had his eye on Stover’s emergence.
“This is the time he's got to really step up,” Day said. “I think he's poised to do that. He’s had a good offseason.”
Stover, 6 feet 4 and 255 pounds, is aware of the stakes — the possibility of a larger role.
“As always, I want to seize it,” he said. “The goal here is to help the team as much as you can, and do whatever is possible for me to help this team win. So if that's a big role, that's a big role.”
Stover had some experience on offense before last year’s position switch. He also lined up as a running back at Lexington High School, where he was used as a two-way player.
But it did only so much to prepare him for the responsibilities of playing tight end.
He said route-running presented the biggest learning curve, because he was forced to get a handle on the footwork. It wasn’t something he did much of as a high school running back.
The position also required a broader knowledge base and understanding of the Buckeyes’ offense.
“Just the whole mental aspect of it,” Stover said. “I mean, in high school, it was pretty much just give you the ball, then you find space and do it yourself. Here, you’re a lot more under control. There are a lot more rules you've got to follow, and you've got to play within the system.”
Since last spring, Stover felt as if he had made improvements in both areas.
Those came despite some obstacles. When Stover switched to tight end last year, it was during the first week of spring practice.
The remaining 12 were canceled amid the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
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“I didn't really look at it as a setback, to be honest with you,” Stover said. “I was home. I was working out there. I was working just as hard as I would be here. Just without the practice, I guess. So it definitely hurt not having it. But there was nothing I could do about it. So I just took it one step at a time.”
Farrell, predominantly the team’s second tight end, saw enough from Stover that he was optimistic about his replacement.
“Cade's a beast, and I think you'll find out here soon,” Farrell said. “It was tough for him adjusting coming over from defense. But I think he's more than capable of filling that spot.”