Nick Vannett was technically a backup to Heuerman last season, but because of various injuries to the senior Vannett was able to show his immense skills. As a junior he hauled in 19 receptions for 220 yards and five touchdowns, the fourth-most receiving touchdowns on the team.
As a fifth-year senior Vannett is the unquestioned starter at tight end and leader of his unit.
“His career is quickly coming to an end,” tight ends coach Tim Hinton said. “It’s a long time to January, I get that, but it’s quickly coming to an end so the bottom line is you better take advantage of every opportunity to grow, learn and lead. Do everything you can do for this team because in the big picture this is the blink of the eye.
“You can feel it, you can sense a much more mature, more purposeful guy, which is good for my room.”
Hinton will need that leadership from Vannett as the rest of the tight ends on Ohio State’s roster are incredibly inexperienced.
Marcus Baugh, who will almost certainly backup Vannett this season, enters his redshirt sophomore season with just one catch to his name. While that reception went for a two-yard touchdown, Baugh is a long way from pairing with Vannett to form the kind of one-two punch that he and Heuerman had a year ago.
“At this time it isn’t there yet,” Hinton said of Baugh. “He’s got to do it on the football field. I think potential is certainly there. It’s his time. If we were going out today I would say no, but we don’t play today. Sept. 7 we play our first one so I need him to continue to step. I’m not sure it’s any different than where Nick was this time last year, just got to go.”
If Baugh can’t get there then the burden of backing up Vannett will fall to a freshman. Rashod Berry and A.J. Alexander both come to Ohio State as three-star recruits, but both must adjust to new responsibilities at a higher level of football before they see the field.
Alexander played wide receiver in high school and while Berry played some tight end, he was predominantly a defensive end before coming to Ohio State. For both players the pressure is on to adapt.
“It’s just new guys trying to learn the position so I think it’s going to take a little bit of time for them to get in a groove a little bit,” Vannett said. “Just like other freshmen, you can tell it’s kind of new. It’s a different level of football. They’re doing a good job right now, but they still have room for improvement, just like any other freshman that comes in.”
NotesVannett starred as a junior splitting time as the starting tight end with Jeff Heuerman last season and looks to expand his role as the full-time starter as a redshirt senior. Vannett was actually the most productive tight end for Ohio state in 2014, hauling in 19 bass for 220 yards and catching five touchdowns, the fourth-most on the team.
NotesBaugh came to Ohio State as the third-ranked tight end in the class of 2013, but has yet to see that talent realized in on the field. Two citations for underage drinking have slowed his development – he has one career reception, though that did go for a touchdown. Baugh is the clear No. 2 tight end for the Buckeyes in his redshirt sophomore season.
NotesBerry comes to Ohio State after starring at Lorain (Ohio) High School, catching 37 balls for 11 touchdowns as a senior for the Titans while also playing defensive end. Now making the transition to being a full-time tight end, the big-bodied Berry has high-end athleticism but said that blocking will be his toughest adjustment.
NotesA three-star recruit out of Virginia, Alexander played wide receiver in high school but has the physical presence to transition to tight end at the college level. His pass-catching abilities are ready for the college game, but he will have to work on blocking schemes to see the field.