Ohio State football's Cade Stover starts spring practice at linebacker

Joey Kaufman
The Columbus Dispatch

Ohio State's Cade Stover, who switched from tight end to linebacker ahead of the Rose Bowl, is remaining on defense to start spring practice.

He went through the team's first workout on Tuesday at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center with other linebackers.

But the move isn’t a permanent one, as coach Ryan Day left the door open for Stover to return to the offense if he requests it.

The ultimate decision rests with the fourth-year junior from Mansfield.

“I’ve always felt like you want to allow the opportunity for guys to choose where they want to play,” Day said, “because they put their whole heart into something.”

Ohio State linebacker Cade Stover celebrates after a stop during the Rose Bowl.

Day pointed to a previous position switch as a testament to the philosophy.

When Steele Chambers went from running back to linebacker last offseason, the switch was prompted by Chambers’ desire for a change.

“That was his decision,” Day said.

Motivated by the move, Chambers became a starter late in the season and totaled 47 tackles, the fifth-most on the team.

Day said there is no timetable for how long Stover might toy with a position switch and appeared in no rush for him to settle into a role, pointing out that Stover made an impact in the Rose Bowl despite being at tight end for most of the season.

In the comeback win over Utah to end last season, his six tackles were tied for the third-most among the Buckeyes and helped them hold the Utes to only a touchdown in the second half.

Stover enrolled at Ohio State as a linebacker in 2019 before going to tight end the following year.

The prospect of Stover remaining at linebacker left new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles eager to find a spot for him.

In strength and conditioning workouts held over the past couple of months, Stover impressed Knowles with his work ethic.

“I can tell already from the offseason that he’s a tough guy,” Knowles said.

His toughness also makes him a candidate for the so-called “Leo” position in Knowles’ defense, a hybrid defensive end-linebacker spot that involves standing up along the edge of the defensive line.  

Over the first week of spring practice, the Buckeyes are lining up with their traditional four down linemen instead of a hybrid front.

The installation of the “Leo” position won’t come until later this spring.

Ohio State Buckeyes safety Josh Proctor (41) returns an interception against Minnesota Golden Gophers during the third quarter of their game in Huntington Bank Stadium at University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, MN on September 2, 2021. The play was called back after a late hit on the quarterback.

But Knowles was already thinking about a spot for Stover.

“He’s a guy that we need to give a job to,” Knowles said. “He’s a frontline guy. Put him on the attack, whether that’s from the linebacker position or up close to the ball. He’s a guy that I’m counting on to be a part of the defense.”

Sat., Jan. 1, 2022; Pasadena, California, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes tight end Mitch Rossi (34) runs the ball during the fourth quarter of the 108th Rose Bowl Game between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Utah Utes at the Rose Bowl.

Status of Josh Proctor

Veteran safety Josh Proctor, who missed most of last season with a leg fracture, will start working his way back into individual drills after the Buckeyes return from spring break during the week of March 21.

During Tuesday’s practice, he warmed up with the entire team and took part in stretching before working on the side with a group of players who are recovering from various injuries.

Day wasn’t sure if Proctor would be fully cleared for contact by the end of spring practice, which ends with the spring game on April 16.  

Proctor began last season as the starting free safety before injuring his right leg in a loss to Oregon.

Dec 19, 2020; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes safety Josh Proctor (41) celebrates with linebacker Mitchell Melton (37) after intercepting a pass against the Northwestern Wildcats during the second half at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Buckeyes unavailability list

Ten players were ruled out for all of spring practice, a group that includes defensive end Tyler Friday, offensive lineman Harry Miller and tight end Mitch Rossi.

Friday suffered an ACL injury last summer and missed all of the season. Reasons for Miller and Rossi being sidelined weren’t given.

Linebacker Ryan Batsch, defensive end Jacolbe Cowan, running back Marcus Crowley, safety Jantzen Dunn, offensive lineman Josh Fryar, linebacker Cade Kacherski and safety Lathan Ransom are also all unavailable.

Another Ohio State position switch?

Mitchell Melton is going to “cross train” at linebacker and defensive line during spring practice, Day said.

Melton, a redshirt sophomore who missed last season with a knee injury, went through position drills with other defensive linemen during a couple of practice periods that were open to reporters on Tuesday. 

“We're going to try to do the best we can to have as many of those kind of hybrid guys to make teams guess a little bit and not be as predictable,” Day said.

Ohio State linebacker Cody Simon (30) and running back TreVeyon Henderson (32) warm up during the first practice of spring football for the Buckeyes at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus on Tuesday, March 8, 2022.

More Ohio State football news

Cody Simon, who started most of last season at middle linebacker before missing the Rose Bowl due to shoulder surgery, participated in practice. … Wide receiver Kamryn Babb is fully cleared for practice after missing all of last season because of a knee injury. … Former Dublin Scioto quarterback Chad Ray has joined the program as a walk-on. 

Joey Kaufman covers Ohio State football for The Columbus Dispatch. Contact him at or on Twitter @joeyrkaufman.

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