Ohio State’s Jake Stoneburner changed positions from tight end to wide receiver in hopes that his size and speed would cause mismatches for opponents.
But the move didn’t really start to pay off until he had a change in attitude.
When OSU coach Urban Meyer first sized up Stoneburner last spring, he wondered why the former Dublin Coffman High School star was being touted as one of the Buckeyes’ primary weapons. But Meyer and receivers coach Zach Smith had heart-to-heart chats with the 6-foot-5, 245-pound senior, letting him know he wasn’t as good a player as he was advertised to be.
“When I first got here, Jake Stoneburner was (proclaimed as) the greatest thing in the world and he wasn’t. Great kid, and he’s playing very well right now, but for some reason he hadn’t been,” Meyer said.
“You can say it’s all the coaches’ faults or it was coach (Jim) Tressel or everybody’s fault, but at some point, you’ve got to play better. That’s exactly what was said. The cool thing is he said, ‘I agree 100 percent, coach, and you got it.’ He’s been great.”
Stoneburner has caught seven passes for 144 yards in the last three games after notching seven receptions for 92 yards in the first six outings. He lined up as a slot receiver against Penn State last week and beat a defender for a career-long 72-yard catch-and-run to cap a 35-23 win.
“His last few weeks have been the best football, according to him, of his career at Ohio State. … We really appreciate his restored dedication to making himself a great player,” Meyer said.
Stoneburner has been playing a variety of positions, but he’s a wideout in most formations. No matter where he lines up, though, blocking is a major part of his job description, and doing that in the open field poses some challenges.
“When you’re trying to block a guy half your size and half your weight, it’s kind of hard when you’ve got 30 yards of separation,” he said. “When you’re a tight end, you’re face to face with that guy, so he’s not going to try to juke you. That’s probably been the biggest adjustment.”
Stoneburner has already matched his reception total from 2011 and his 236 receiving yards are 43 more than last season. And he’ll likely remain a significant part of the offense over the final three games.
“A few weeks ago, he really wasn’t playing as well as he could or should,” Smith said. “Coach Meyer had a sit-down with him, and I had a sit-down with him, and we really addressed the issue. Since then, every week has been a better week. I think his best game as a Buckeye was last week, and I think this week will be even better.”
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