PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 01: Rashod Berry #13 of the Ohio State Buckeyes and Luke Farrell #89 of the Ohio State Buckeyes celebrate after a touchdown during the first half in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual at the Rose Bowl on January 1, 2019 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Ohio State football: Underutilized position could be fearsome foursome for Buckeyes

Ohio State’s most-talked-about/least-utilized position got its turn in the spotlight this week as regularly scheduled interviews wrapped up, and the man who coaches the position (and serves as offensive coordinator) was as loquacious as ever. 

>>RELATED: How one position group could be the key to Ohio State’s offense soaring again 

“It's a great group,” Wilson said. “It might be the best group I've ever coached as far as just a group of dudes. Maybe I've had a group with one or two more talented (players), but I walk into that group and I'm talking to men. There's a lot of respect. It is a tremendous group. And it's gonna have a great year for our football team.” 

Why is he so fired up? 

Because the Buckeyes go eight deep, including a top foursome who all appear to be worthy of playing time. 

That is about four times more than is often the case in Columbus, where relatively few scholarships have been devoted to the position and subsequently performance has been spotty. 

Age is working in Ohio State’s favor at tight end as three of the top four are at least four years removed from high school. That includes returning starter Luke Farrell and Jake Hausmann, both fourth-year juniors, and Rashod Berry, a fifth-year senior who finally found a home after bouncing between positions early in his career. 

The fourth member of the group, Jeremy Ruckert, is the youngest, but the true sophomore is also the highest-rated recruit, having been the No. 2 tight end and No. 37 overall prospect in the country in 2018 according to 247Sports Composite rankings. 

“I think he is right on track,” Wilson said, noting he was more of a receiver in high school so the learning curve was steep when he arrived at Ohio State last season. 

“Half the time he's basically playing left tackle — He's got to execute cut-off blocks, down blocks, pass blocks,” Wilson said. “He's doing really well.” 

Despite how much he had to learn, Ruckert made it into the rotation last year and ended up playing more than any other freshman tight end Wilson has coached with one exception. 

That was Jermaine Gresham, a standout at Oklahoma who was later a first-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals. 

» PRESEASON POLL: Where do Buckeyes rank?

While Ruckert gets lots of attention because of his recruiting pedigree, Farrell is still the leader of the group. 

“I think he's one of the better football players on our team,” Wilson said. “Rock solid, consistent, great student, tremendous player. I think he's setting up have a great year.”

The coach praised Berry for becoming more consistent after the high school basketball standout showed flashes of his immense talent off and on over the past two seasons and called Hausmann the second-best blocker in the group. 

“In the world of (the NCAA transfer portal), I'm glad to see a guy stick around for four years and fight through it when it's not going your way,” he said of Hausmann. “Find your niche. Got a lot of respect for him.”

Ohio State tight end Derrick Malone, a graduate of Thurgood Marshall, holds the Rose Bowl trophy in the winning locker room on Jan. 1, 2019, in Pasadena, California.

Beyond that core four, Wilson is also happy with a trio of walk-ons — Derrick Malone (a fifth-year senior from Thurgood Marshall High School), Brock Davin and Mitch Rossi. 

Finally there is Cormontae Hamilton, 6-foot-2, 263-pound scholarship freshman. A three-star recruit from Memphis, he was the No. 18 prospect in Tennessee last season. Wilson said he has “had a little bit of an injury” and is likely going to redshirt. 

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