As the season continues to grow closer, Ohio State’s depth chart at each position is taking shape. After losing 16 starters, including 12 during the NFL draft, this will be one of the program’s youngest teams in recent memory.
Join Landof10.com as we break down each of the position groups and assess what Buckeye fans can expect from each one this fall.
Next up are the tight ends, where the Buckeyes find a bevy of new players and an assistant coach taking over a new unit.
Assessing the roster
Lost: Nick Vannett (NFL)
Added: Jake Hausmann, Luke Farrell, Kierre Hawkins
Returning: Marcus Baugh (redshirt junior), A.J. Alexander (redshirt freshman)
Projected depth chart
- First team: Marcus Baugh
- Second team: A.J. Alexander – or – Jake Hausmann
- Beyond that: Luke Farrell, Kierre Hawkins
Marcus Baugh’s emergence as a go-to option in the passing game for J.T. Barrett during the Buckeyes spring game is a source of optimism for Ohio State’s offense in 2016. Baugh struggled early in his Buckeyes career to avoid trouble but has turned himself into a leader of Ed Warinner’s tight ends group.
“Marcus has really made tremendous progress,” Warinner said following Tuesday’s practice. “When he came here as a freshman from California, he had a culture shock — an adjustment to make there. He had to physically grow up and mentally and emotionally get used to being away from home. He’s done that. It’s been a transition for him, and he’s made great progress. Last year, he gave us a lot of quality reps, and he’s continuing to improve. He’s had a good camp so far. We expect him to do a lot of good things for us because he’s a talented individual.”
Beyond Baugh, there is a lot of raw, young talent. Ohio State signed three of the country’s top 11 tight ends in its 2016 recruiting class: Jake Hausmann (No. 4), Luke Farrell (No. 7), and Kierre Hawkins (No. 11).
Ohio State has put its last three starting tight ends in the NFL: Jake Stoneburner, Jeff Heuerman, and Nick Vannett. Now, though they have five tight ends on the roster, only Baugh has ever caught a collegiate pass — and he only has two receptions.
The hope for the Buckeyes entering this season was that redshirt freshman A.J. Alexander would become a solid No. 2. On Monday when Urban Meyer updated the media on the Buckeyes’ depth chart, he implied tight end is a concern.
“At tight end, we’ve got Marcus Baugh, and I just don’t know right now,” Meyer said. “A.J. has a minor ankle sprain, so he’s in and out. He’s practicing through it, though. The young freshmen still have a way to go, but Jake Haussmann is a little bit ahead of Luke (Farrell).”
If something goes wrong with Baugh or he gets hurt? Warinner, in his first year coaching tight ends after four seasons of leading the offensive line, may face unexpected rough patches.
What to expect
If the Buckeyes spring game is an indication, expect the tight ends to be a much bigger part of the offense than in previous seasons. Baugh caught seven passes and was targeted 11 times in that game.
For one, Warinner is also the offensive coordinator, calling plays from his perch high above the field in Ohio State’s press box.
“You can see all the nuances,” Warinner said. “You don’t have to have anybody tell you the corner is playing heavy to the field, or the boundary (weak-side) linebacker is always doing this, etcetera. If you’re on the field, you don’t see any of that.”
When pressed about whether he’d look for his tight ends to get the ball more, Warinner hinted, slyly, that would be a reasonable assumption.
“Probably, it only makes sense, right?” Warinner joked before clarifying. “Our No. 1 objective is to get the ball to playmakers. As we develop this offense and go through training camp, we’re trying to find out who the consistent playmakers are. Marcus Baugh has shown he can be one.”
Warinner is happy with the development of his freshmen tight ends, even though they’re not expected to do too much this fall. The veteran of the group, Baugh, is impressed, too. “They’re all coming along great,” Baugh said of the three freshmen. “They know more than I did when I was a freshman. They actually do know a lot. I don’t really have to tell them anything, just a few things here and there. I’ve just got to get them to where, if something happens and they have to go in, that they’ll be ready.”
So what should fans look for this year? Expect Baugh to continue to develop as a leader in a position group that needs it and for him to become a proverbial security blanket for Barrett. Expect Hausmann and Alexander to battle for the No. 2 role throughout the season and expect Baugh to become the next Ohio State tight end to get drafted into the NFL … next year.