No, really, this time OSU means it


It always seemed like a great idea whose time had come...everywhere, of course, but at Ohio State.

Throughout the 1980s, 1990s and beyond, as other college football teams made the tight end a staple of their offenses, OSU seemed determined to persevere with accomplished wide receivers and the occasional tailback with great hands as its only receiving weapons.

You could routinely find Buckeye wide receivers in the first round of the NFL Draft (Joey Galloway, Terry Glenn, David Boston, Michael Jenkins).

You could find OSU wide receivers holding Super Bowl MVP trophies (Santonio Holmes).

You could find OSU wide receivers in gold jackets at induction ceremonies for the Pro Football Hall of Fame (Cris Carter).

And, right now, you can find a Buckeye wide receiver atop the list of the highest-paid players at his position in the NFL (Michael Thomas).

But you'd have an easier time finding a pair of Jim Harbaugh eyeglasses on an Ohio State graduate than you would locating an impact tight end in an OSU uniform in the NFL now or in the last 30 years.

It was almost as if every coach from Earle Bruce to John Cooper to Jim Tressel to Urban Meyer felt they'd betray the legacy of Woody Hayes if they used the tight end as a receiver instead of the way Hayes used them -- as a third offensive tackle.

Bruce wasn't always that way, coaching the best tight end in OSU history, John Frank, from 1980-83, but then Bruce and everyone after him seemed to forget the position was actually, you know, eligible to catch passes.

Oh, sure, Cooper gave Rickey Dudley some run in 1995, but that came quite by accident. Dudley came to OSU as a basketball player and played only one season of football -- long enough to fool the Oakland Raiders into taking him ninth overall -- after his basketball career concluded.

Frank has the career record for receptions by an Ohio State tight end with just 121.

Only two TEs who played since 2000 are in the Top 10 in that category, and both of them had only 55 career catches.

Frank averaged about 30 catches per-year at OSU and Dudley had 37 in 1995.

It's not uncommon for a top college tight end these days to catch close to 50 balls a year.

O.J. Howard did at Alabama. Jordan Leggett did at Clemson. Troy Fumagalli did at Wisconsin and T.J. Hockenson did at Iowa.

Now, though, it appears Ryan Day is serious about incorporating the tight end in Ohio State's offense, as evidenced by two touchdown catches for sophomore Jeremy Ruckert in a 45-21 win over Florida Atlantic.

OSU also has fifth-year senior Rashod Berry and junior Luke Farrell in its tight end arsenal.

The Buckeyes played two tight ends on 26 of their 78 plays in the win over Florida Atlantic, and figure to test Cincinnati with multiple tight end sets Saturday at noon in Ohio Stadium (ABC-TV).

"Having the ability to change multiple personnel groupings is something we want to do," Day said.

Maybe this time, they mean it.