Ohio State’s No. 2 tight end, he played 223 snaps as a sophomore last year on offense but appeared to be in line or a large role this season with Jeremy Ruckert graduating.
However, when injuries and transfers left the Buckeyes low on linebackers late last year, Stover started helping out on that side of the ball.
He ended up starting on defense in the Rose Bowl and found the familiar task of closing ball-carriers’ paths preferable to opening them.
“I think when he got over there he realized that he loves being over there at linebacker because he can play with that edge,” Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said.
Stover, 6-foot-4, 255-pounds, had six tackles against Utah in the Rose Bowl, and the All-Ohio linebacker from Mansfield Lexington High School beamed afterward when talking about what it had been like to be back on defense.
“Oh, it felt so good,” he said in Pasadena. “There’s so much emotion built up onto that. I can’t even describe how good it felt.”
Day and offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson — who also coaches the tight ends — both said Stover’s position would ultimately be his decision but expressed the desire to make his next move permanent.
He began the spring on defense, but the linebacker room has gone from nearly empty to overflowing since the end of last season.
Not only have multiple injured players returned, the coaching staff also added Arizona State transfer Chip Trayanum and true freshmen C.J. Hicks and Gabe Powers.
New defensive coordinator Jim Knowles’ base defense also happens to be a 4-2-5, meaning there are likely to be fewer snaps available for linebackers this fall and for the foreseeable future.
Meanwhile, the elder statesman in the tight ends room — sixth-year senior Mitch Rossi — is not practicing this spring while he recovers from surgery. That had Wilson down to four scholarship players — Joe Royer, Sam Hart, Gee Scott Jr. and Bennett Christian.
Wilson sounds happy with their progress, but Stover could be a more complete package at a position he often describes as half left tackle, half wide receiver.
“He’s a little bit bigger than some of those guys in the blocking piece, but to be good, you need to do it all,” Wilson said.
This move might be the last, but the coaches indicated that has not been determined.
“Today he came back just to give it a go here a little bit,” Wilson said. “We’ll see how it’s going. He’s doing good at ‘backer, too. There’s a bunch of linebackers.
“To me if he just trust his heart, and that’s where his heart takes him, I think he’ll be good at it. If his heart leads him to be on defense, I would say he needs to stay there, so I didn’t ask him to come back or coach Day didn’t ask him to come back. He’s the guy that said, ‘Hey, as we’re going through this, can I give it a shot and let’s see?’ So that’s where we’re at.”