Stoneburner Expects To Be Part Of Pass Game

No Ohio State tight end has caught more 30 passes in a season since Ben Hartsock hauled in 33 in 2003. Tight ends have become primarily a sixth offensive lineman in recent years, but that trend may be changing with sophomore Jake Stoneburner taking over the spot. The Dublin (Ohio) Coffman product could be a big part of the offense this fall.

Stop me if you've heard this one before, but Ohio State is going to throw to the tight end more this season.

No, really, it's true this time.

There's a good chance of that happening with sophomore Jake Stoneburner taking over the starting spot. Stoneburner, who provides a large passing target at 6-5 and 245 pounds, is a converted wide receiver who has sure hands and a close relationship with fellow "Brew Crew" commit Terrelle Pryor.

Stoneburner for one believes he is going to get the ball this fall. There's reason to believe him, from the continued progression of quarterback Terrelle Pryor to the fact that no receiver has stepped up to grab the third wide out spot.

"I think it's going to happen this year," Stoneburner said. "With how many weapons we have on offense, we're not going to rely too much on just one guy. With Terrelle throwing the ball a lot we'll have plenty of opportunities, and us being pretty good friends and him having a lot of confidence in me will help too."

Stoneburner made only two receptions last season while backing up then-senior Jake Ballard. Both of those catches came early in the season, with the first coming on a 17-yard gain in the season opener against Navy before a 13-yard haul against Toledo concluded his receiving contributions. Expect those numbers to increase this fall, however. Stoneburner stepped into the No. 1 tight end spot and shined during the spring and in early preseason practices.

No tight end has been a major part of the passing game since Ben Hartsock's departure in 2003, but Stoneburner could end that trend. Hartsock caught 33 passes during his senior season and no other tight end has come close to that mark since.

"I'm more than excited," Stoneburner said of his opportunity. "It's been a while since I've been able to do something on the football field in catching the ball and making plays."

Stoneburner's possible emergence has been on the minds of many Ohio State fans since the Dublin (Ohio) Coffman product ended his prep career in 2008 following a senior season in which he caught 74 passes for 1,267 yards with 15 touchdowns. Stoneburner was an U.S. Army All-American, as well as a two-time All-Ohio selection. He redshirted during his first year at Ohio State and did his best to learn the playbook last fall, something Stoneburner said is the biggest difference between him now compared to his first fall camp.

"I could tell you what almost everyone is doing on the field at all times now," Stoneburner said. "I think being able to do that makes me a lot more confident out there. You know you won't make a mistake and you'll play at 100 percent. I think that's the biggest difference."

While teammates and fans are excited about Stoneburner can bring to the passing game, no one can play tight end at Ohio State without being able to block. That aspect of his game is also improving after learning from Ballard last season. Stoneburner is noticeably bigger than when he first arrived on campus and now does not fear going up against some of the biggest defensive linemen the Big Ten can offer.

"I've put on a bunch of weight, gotten a lot stronger. I've gotten my technique down better," Stoneburner said. "There are some times I struggle when going against guys like (Ohio State standout defensive end Cameron Heyward), but most people would.

"I think being able to go against those guys everyday really helps me in a game because it's like going a notch down. No one's better than Cameron."

Now that he's a capable blocker and receiver, Stoneburner said he has to deal with a push-pull relationship with tight ends coach John Peterson and wide receivers coach and assistant head coach Darrell Hazell.

"Coach Hazell is always on me for running routes and catching the ball," Stoneburner said. "He's always texting me different things he wants me to do. He was the one who recruited me and he's always looking out for me. Coach Pete does the same, but he likes perfection with the blocking, so I have that too. It's a lot of different stuff thrown at me, but I've taken it pretty well.

"I think it means they want me to be productive this year or else they wouldn't really be caring."

Catching 30 passes this season would not surprise Stoneburner, but even if he does not, he just wants to make a bigger contribution.

"I just want to make a difference, whether it's catching or blocking. It doesn't really matter to me," he said.

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