Ohio State football's Cade Stover making strides in return to tight end

Joey Kaufman
The Columbus Dispatch

Ohio State's Cade Stover was down the seam, moving a couple of steps past a defensive back, when he caught a pass from quarterback C.J. Stroud during a 7-on-7 period in preseason practice last week.

The reception offered a glimpse of how Stover has reacclimated to tight end, a switch back he made from linebacker earlier this offseason.

If there’s an area in which he’s taken the biggest stride since spring practice, it might be with his receiving skills.

“He’s running his routes faster,” offensive coordinator and tight ends coach Kevin Wilson said.

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Cade Stover worked at tight end hard over summer

Stover spent three or four nights each week this summer working out with Keenan Bailey, a veteran member of the Buckeyes’ support staff.

Bailey, who has worked with the wide receivers in his off-field roles, guided him through route running and footwork during the near-hourlong sessions.

“Keenan’s probably the best-held secret in this entire place,” Stover said. “He helps me so much.”

In practices, it has allowed him to gain more separation while covered by linebackers or defensive backs.

Wilson observed Stover’s faster route-running comes with better “stride length” instead of “choppy steps,” rolling past defenders as a result.

GPS tracking data highlights his speed.

Readings have shown Stover reaching 18 mph, making him often the team’s fastest tight end, according to Wilson.

It’s something Stover has felt on the field, too.

“Overall, I’m just faster,” he said. “I move better than I used to. I feel more confident. I guess I just know what I’m doing a little better.”

The workouts with Bailey also instilled a level of craftiness as a route runner.

“Working on your eyes, working on the top-end of your routes, where your leverage is at, where you got to attack, where you got to stick, where your landmarks are at,” Stover said. “Just stuff I never really learned ever to be honest.”

Cade Stover arrived at Ohio State from Mansfield as linebacker

Stover is still relatively new to tight end.

After the Mansfield native enrolled as a linebacker in 2019, he moved to the offensive side of the ball the following year.

But the onset of the coronavirus pandemic canceled spring practice in 2020 and added a layer of difficulty to the transition, wiping away an offseason’s worth of reps and shortening the length of the season in the fall.

Even last season, as Stover neared finishing his first full season at tight end, he went back to linebacker for the Rose Bowl.

Stover once harbored aspirations of playing linebacker and entertained the idea of staying at the position this past winter before recommitting to tight end, where he sees a better long-term outlook.

That’s largely due to his size.

“I don’t know how many teams anymore want a 6-foot-5, 260-pound middle linebacker,” Stover said. “Thirty years ago, I would be playing middle linebacker and there wouldn’t be a question about it.”

If he continues to find his stride at tight end, it will make a difference for the Buckeyes’ offense, which saw Jeremy Ruckert leave for the NFL.

Stover has been taking first-team reps in preseason training camp and is in line to replace Ruckert as Ohio State’s top tight end.

Wilson said he and Mitch Rossi have been their two best tight ends, showing the most consistency and strength as blockers.

Cade Stover saw action at tight end in 2022

Last season, Stover played 223 snaps, the second-most among all the Buckeyes’ tight ends, according to Pro Football Focus, but he largely made his impact as a blocker. He caught only five passes for 76 yards.

The leadership from Stover has also made an impact this offseason. He was selected as a team captain this past weekend, a recognition he called a “blessing” following practice Monday.

“It means a lot,” Stover said. “I really got no words. I love this team. I love the people around me.”

But if he continues to make strides as a pass catcher, he will also give Ohio State a more complete tight end at the top of its depth chart.

“He’s on track to have a really strong year,” Wilson said. “He’s going to be an impressive player.”

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

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