Ohio State Buckeyes: 2022 captain says he’ll be back for another year

Ohio State’s 2023 football team got another key piece Monday with the revelation captain Cade Stover intends to return for a fifth season in scarlet and gray.

“I am coming back,” the senior tight end shared in an all-caps Tweet that did not need to say much more.

Ohio’s 2018 Mr. Football at Mansfield Lexington High School caught 36 passes for 406 yards and five touchdowns last season, his first full year as the starting tight end for the Buckeyes.

The 6-4, 255-pounder only started one game in his first three seasons at Ohio State and found himself trying out multiple positions along the way. He moonlighted at linebacker in the Rose Bowl at the conclusion of the 2021 season, but Stover ultimately settled on playing offense last spring because that appears to be his best pro position in an era when linebackers are often much smaller at the next level.

Last month, Pro Football Focus rated Stover the No. 6 tight end prospect in the 2023 draft if he chose to enter, an option he said he was keeping open until after the Buckeyes’ College Football Playoff appearance.

Stover’s return solidifies a position group that has evolved into one of the most important in head coach Ryan Day’s offense despite relatively few opportunities to touch the ball.

Outgoing offensive coordinator and tight ends coach Kevin Wilson liked to describe the position’s role as half left tackle, half receiver because of the different things Stover, et al, are asked to do from play to play.

After taking a backseat on the field and in recruiting during the Urban Meyer era, tight end depth has been better under Day, who has also used more multiple tight end sets than Meyer did.

Day even reintroduced the fullback to the Ohio State offense over the past two seasons by training tight end Mitch Rossi to play both on the line of scrimmage and out of the backfield.

However, Rossi is out of eligibility, and losing Stover would have left the Buckeyes with little experience at the position heading into 2023.

Converted receiver Gee Scott Jr. played in 12 games last season as the No. 3 tight end while Joe Royer, Sam Hart and Bennett Christian saw limited time.

Zak Herbstreit, a redshirt freshman walk-on from Tennessee, has been groomed to replace Rossi in the fullback/H-back role.

With a week go to before the Jan. 16 deadline for underclassmen to enter the 2023 NFL Draft, Stover is the second major player to announce he will return to Ohio State, joining running back Miyan Williams.

Center Luke Wypler and linebacker Tommy Eichenberg both said they would wait until after the Buckeyes’ loss to Georgia they had not decided what they will do.

Neither quarterback C.J. Stroud or left tackle Paris Johnson Jr. had made an announcement as of this writing, but both are widely expected to turn pro because they are potential first-round picks.

Right guard Matt Jones and right tackle Dawand Jones also could go pro or use their extra season of eigliibilty from the 2020 season not counting because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but they have not publicly shared their intentions.

Receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who missed nearly all of the season because of injury, and safety Ronnie Hickman previously announced they will turn pro.

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