Stoneburner Ready To Get Rolling

Jake Stoneburner has shown tempting glances at his talent since arriving at Ohio State, but even the Buckeye tight end would agree he hasn't quite made the impact on the stat sheet he had hoped. With a new offense in place and his senior year beckoning, Stoneburner hopes to finish things on a high note.

When Tim Hinton was hired at Ohio State this winter, he made a promise to Cathy Stoneburner that he intends to keep.

"He said he'd be letting my mom down if he doesn't coach me as hard as he can," said her son Jacob Stoneburner, an Ohio State tight end and one of Hinton's new charges as TEs and fullbacks coach.

And what was Cathy's reaction? Clearly, she wasn't worried about her son having his feelings hurt.

"You do that," she said to the coach, in Jake's words.

So far this spring, Hinton has lived up to those words, with his inspiration that the old saw that pressure forges the strongest diamonds. That appears to be the ethos of the entire new coaching staff, led by Urban Meyer, but Hinton is working especially hard to get the most out of Stoneburner simply because of the talent the fast but physical, 6-5, 245-pound athlete brings to the table.

"It's very easy to concentrate on your strengths," Hinton said. "Right now, we have to concentrate on your weaknesses because that's what you have to be better at when it comes around in the fall."

We know Cathy Stoneburner is OK with that, but how does Jake feel? The way a competitor should, it turns out.

"He criticizes me so hard," Stoneburner said. "Sometimes it kinda sucks, but I need it. I love him for it and it's been great so far."

The goal is to turn Stoneburner from part-time pest to opponents into a full-blown superstar, the type of impact player that was expected when Ohio State signed him as a four-star wide receiver boasting impressive speed, daunting size and excellent hands out of Dublin (Ohio) Coffman in 2008.

So far, he's shown glimpses but never truly broken out. After redshirting in 2008, Stoneburner caught only two passes a year later, then pulled in 21 (including two scores) in 2010 and 14 along with a team-high seven touchdowns a season ago.

Add it all up and Stoneburner has 37 catches for 445 yards and nine touchdowns in his three seasons – a solid career, but a far cry from the 74 catches, 1,267 yards and 15 touchdowns he recorded as a senior at Coffman.

Stoneburner said that while he's been pleased with his career up to this point, there is a part of him wanting more.

"I was happy with the touchdowns last year; I'll take seven in a year," he said. "I was happy because we were winning. How many guys can say they've been to the Sugar Bowl and won it – well, technically – been to the Rose Bowl and won it, and been to the Fiesta Bowl? Not a lot of guys can say they've been to all those games and beat Michigan three times so far.

"As far as production, I'm a player. I like to make plays, so obviously I'd like to get the ball more, but I'm hoping me sticking around this year will help that and change all that."

That development could happen in 2012, as it's fair to say the coaching staff knows its way around – and how to use – a good tight end. The prototype for Urban Meyer tight ends is Aaron Hernandez, who left Florida as a John Mackey Award winner as the best player at his position before becoming a stalwart with the New England Patriots.

Hinton, meanwhile, spent his past few years at Notre Dame working with eventual second-round draft pick Kyle Rudolph, and offensive coordinator Tom Herman had a tight end at RiceJames Casey – catch 111 passes in 2008.

Hinton sees similarities between what Stoneburner brings to the table and those players.

"He has all those skills," Hinton said. "He has great ball skills, good toughness. He has all the skills and he has a want-to, which is even more important. He truly has a want-to and knows what he wants to get done, so I feel very good about where he is and what he can accomplish."

Becoming a receiver the caliber of those players is definitely something Stoneburner is looking forward to. He knows Meyer's offenses are predicted on getting the ball into the hands of playmakers, and he plans to be one of those.

"If you're a playmaker, he'll get you the ball," Stoneburner said. "He wants to be able to find that. If I can go out there and prove that I'm a playmaker and he feels that I am, I feel comfortable he'll have confidence in me to get me the ball."

There's still the matter of working on those weaknesses, though. Hinton pointed to point-of-attack blocking as well as getting off the line of scrimmage as areas in which Stoneburner can improve, while the player himself said he wants to fine-tune his route running and work on both mental and physical conditioning so he'll be 100 percent into each play in his senior year.

After all, time is ticking.

"He has all the skills necessary to be a great football player," Hinton said. "The problem is he has no other time but this year, so he's gotta go. He can't say, ‘Listen, we'll do this and this and this and be ready for next year.' It doesn't work like that. We have to go now."

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