We are now on day three of our 10 part series breaking down the best Ohio State players to play their position in the first five years under Buckeye head coach Urban Meyer. While the tight ends haven't been utilized all that much in the passing game the last few years, Ryan McGlade, Tim Moody and I came up with our top five tight ends to play under Meyer in Columbus and we were unanimous in this installment.
No. 5 - A.J. Alexander
A class of 2015 commit, Alexander redshirted his first year on campus but did appear in all 13 games for Ohio State in 2016. Used primarily as a blocking tight end, Alexander caught just four passes for 27 yards in his first full season with the Buckeyes. Alexander will have to fight to keep his spot as the No. 2 tight end on Ohio State's roster as Jake Hausmann, Luke Farrell and Kierre Hawkins are all looking to crack the two-deep after redshirting in 2016.
No. 4 - Marcus Baugh
Ohio State's current No. 1 tight end, Baugh struggled to get out of Meyer's dog house his first few years on campus as he was suspended twice before ever playing a game. Baugh saw limited action during the Buckeyes national title season in 2014, but played in all 13 games in 2015 as he was used mostly as an extra blocker. He finally got his chance to be Ohio State's top tight end in 2016 and caught 24 passes for 269 yards and two scores, including a key grab over the middle against Michigan to help set up Tyler Durbin's field goal to send the game to overtime. With Kevin Wilson taking over Baugh's position group, the Buckeye fifth-year senior could move up this list with a big 2017 season.
No. 3 - Jake Stoneburner
Stoneburner played just one season under Meyer, but overall had a solid career at Ohio State. During his senior season in 2012, Stoneburner caught 16 passes for 269 yards and four touchdowns, perhaps none more memorable than his 72 yard score to clinch a Buckeye victory over Penn State on the road. Prior to Meyer's arrival, Stoneburner led Ohio State in receiving touchdowns in 2011 with seven, three of which came in the season opener against Akron. He also caught 21 passes for 222 yards and two scores in Jim Tressel's final season of 2010. Stoneburner has bounced around the NFL since going undrafted in 2013. Currently a free agent, Stoneburner has two career NFL touchdowns, both coming with the Miami Dolphins in 2015.
No. 2 - Jeff Heuerman
A senior captain on Ohio State's national title team in 2014, Heuerman was a third round pick by the Denver Broncos in the 2015 NFL Draft following a productive Buckeye career. Despite battling injuries for a good portion of his senior year, Heuerman caught 17 passes for 207 yards and two scores in 2014 and left OSU on top as a national champion. His best season statistically came in 2013, when he caught 26 passes for 466 yards and and four touchdowns, all good for third best on the team. Perhaps the biggest catch in his career however, came in 2012 on a two point conversion from Kenny Guiton that helped send a game against Purdue to overtime, ultimately saving Ohio State's perfect season. After missing the entire 2015 NFL season with a torn ACL, Heuerman made his Bronco debut in 2016 and caught nine passes for 141 yards.
No. 1 - Nick Vannett
Vannett was second fiddle to Heuerman for most of his Ohio State career, but finally got the chance to be the Buckeyes top tight end in 2015. While he played in all 13 games for OSU in his senior season, Vannett caught just 19 passes for 162 yards and did not score in his final Buckeye campaign. His best statistical season came during Ohio State's 2014 title run as he filled in for an injury plagued Heuerman. Vannett caught 19 passes for 220 yards and five touchdowns in 2014, including a score in Ohio State's 42-20 win over Oregon in the first ever CFP title game. From 2012-13, Vannett caught a combined 17 passes for 203 yards and his first career touchdown, which came against Purdue in 2013. Like his former teammate, Vannett was drafted in the third round of the NFL Draft one year after Heuerman by the Seattle Seahawks. Playing behind pro-bowler Jimmy Graham, Vannett caught just three passes for 32 yards in his rookie season.
James Grega: I went back and forth between putting Vannett or Heuerman at No. 1, but ultimately I went with Vannett simply because I thought he was more versatile. I would grade them as equal blockers, but I thought Vannett's pass catching and route running ability gave him a slight edge over Heuerman. Had Stoneburner played more than one season under Meyer, he might have even made a push for the top spot. That said, I think Baugh will move up this list by the time 2017 is over, as I firmly expect Kevin Wilson to utilize him more in the passing game.
Ryan McGlade: This has been a bit of a top-heavy position group during the Urban Meyer era. Nick Vannett, Jeff Heuerman and Jake Stoneburner are unquestionably the top three tight ends in Meyer's tenure at Ohio State. From there, I selected Marcus Baugh at No. 4 and A.J. Alexander at No. 5 out of default basically. I will say I am very intrigued to see how Alexander does moving forward.
Tim Moody: While I think Jeff Heuerman was probably the more talented player, I had to put Nick Vannett first for the impact he had during the 2014 national title run. Both players were top-end tight ends for the Buckeyes, though. Stoneburner checked in at third for me, though his biggest impact came when Luke Fickell was the head coach. Baugh and Alexander are still question marks in my book, but I do see Baugh as an NFL tight end some day.