Ohio State tight end Cade Stover put an extra emphasis this offseason on his route-running. Working with senior advisor Keenan Bailey, who helped oversee the Buckeyes' record setting wide receiver unit, he wanted to focus on becoming a better target for quarterback C.J. Stroud.
“It’s helped me a lot, just to be able to understand what you’re looking at,” Stover said during his media availability on Wednesday night. “Little tips and tricks that he’s taught me that can get me open, really. I’m seeing the benefits of it.”
The Lexington, Ohio, native arrived in Columbus in 2019, going through a series of position changes. He moved from defensive end to linebacker to tight end before being shifted back to the defensive side of the ball last season.
That movement alone is enough to make anyone’s head spin, so it’s understandable if the nuances of an elite pass catcher weren’t in his repertoire.
“I had no technique, I just wanted to smash people. Half of the time, I just missed,” Stover said.
Stover says he feels like he’s always been capable of being a playmaker in the Buckeye offense. But after working with Bailey over the summer, it all started to come together in fall camp for the senior pass catcher.
“Even when I first came over and I sucked, and I do mean sucked, in my heart I knew I was talented enough to do it,” he said. You’ve just got to figure out how to do it. It took a while, but I’m starting to stack them together.”
If the early returns are any indication, that work is paying dividends. Stover hauled in three passes for 83 yards in the Buckeyes 77-21 blowout win of Toledo last weekend, surpassing his yardage total from a year ago.
Carrying an average of 17.1 yards per catch, there are only seven other tight ends that boast a higher average per reception in the nation. One of them, coincidentally, is Wisconsin’s Clay Cundiff.
“In my mind I tried to always keep positive. Only you know what you’re really capable of,” Stover said. “In my mind I watch tight ends across the country like, ‘Damn, I can be better than that.’”
While he’s yet to haul in a touchdown this year, doing so in the Buckeyes' Big Ten opener against Wisconsin on Saturday at Ohio Stadium could go a long way towards adding another dynamic element to an already potent Buckeye attack.
The scary part of Ohio State's offensive capabilities might be they believe they’re just scratching the surface.
“You can’t not be excited for this. It’s a great program with a tough team and tough kids on it,” Stover said. “It will be a great test to see what we’re really made of. This is another tough Big Ten ball club that we’re excited to play.”
The big and brash tight end has morphed himself into another weapon for Day, Stroud and company. His quarterback made the comparison to Rob Gronkowski. While Stover is flattered by the analogy, he feels there’s plenty of room to grow.
“I like it, but I don’t know,” he said with a laugh. “I love Gronk, I’m a huge Jeremy Shockey guy. That’s my favorite tight end of all time. That’s a very nice compliment by the fella right there.”
Some of his catches against the Rockets were Shockey-esque, beating a pair of defenders down the seam and slipping past the coverage to haul in a long pass down the sideline.
“Each week I’m just trying to build on stuff, put my head down and keep rolling,” Stover said.
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