Photo Credit: The Ohio State University/Rivals
Grow up in Florida playing hockey through the pre-teen years, try football for the first time as a 9th grader, end up as a tight end on the Ohio State football roster? That series of events for one person sounds highly improbable at the least, but not impossible. Just ask the 6’6”, 250 pound Buckeye tight end Jeff Heuerman.
The story doesn’t end there for him either. Not only did he grow up thousands of miles away in Naples, Florida, and not care about football through his childhood, but his dad played basketball at That School Up North of all places. And he was a captain, by the way.
Needless to say, very few people, including his family, thought they would someday see Heuerman catching passes in Ohio Stadium.
But despite the improbability of Heuerman’s arrival in Columbus, his tenure has been very constant and progressive. He showed a consistency at the position last season showing coaches that he could possibly play multiple downs as a blocker and a pass catcher. As a Sophomore in 2012 he caught eight passes for 94 yards and one touchdown, coming in third in catches and yardage gained on the tight end depth chart. His biggest game was a two catch, 53 yard performance vs. Nebraska in prime time at the ‘Shoe.
However, the most important play Heuerman made is possibly the most memorable play of the 2012 season. With Ohio State down 22-20 to Purdue with three seconds remaining, needing a two-point conversion to tie the game and send it to overtime, and with their undefeated season hanging in the balance, Urban Meyer wanted to run the ball. It was only because of offensive coordinator Tom Herman’s insistence that a certain pass play would work that Meyer didn’t make Herman call a run play. Next thing we know the ball is snapped and back-up quarterback Kenny Guiton runs to the right toward senior Jake Stoneburner who had come across the formation in motion. Everyone in the stadium, including Purdue, thought the pass was going in that direction. Little did we all know Heuerman was on the left side, initially blocking, then releasing at the last minute and catching a floating pass from Guiton wide open in the end zone.
Pretty gutsy call from Herman to override two-time national champion Meyer. And pretty impressive execution under pressure from all the Buckeye players, most notably Heuerman.
The coaches’ trust in him seemed to increase as the year progressed, though his catches didn’t change a ton through the year (actually if anything they dropped) but he did start the last seven games of the season. As we know, Urban Meyer does not start guys he doesn’t trust, and Heuerman proved his worth to the team in multiple ways.
Heuerman is projected to be first on the depth chart when camp opens on August 4th, and he will be expected to fill the shoes left by Stoneburner, as will fellow tight end Nick Vannett. Tight end coach Tim Hinton has expressed his excitement in the possibilities of Heuerman being an every down tight end where predictability is not an option for opposing defenses with certain personnel on the field. Versatility is what Hinton and Herman are looking for, and that is exactly what they can find in Heuerman.
Overall, Heuerman has played in 23 games in his first two seasons with the good guys, and the true junior is a rare talent with a mix of size and speed that can thrive in a Meyer-led offense. When a guy that is 250 pounds has a vertical of 36.5”, it’s fair to say options abound. Linebackers can’t match his speed and athleticism, and corners/safeties will struggle contending with his size. In short, things look bright for Heuerman this season, and look for the number of catches to jump significantly from last season’s eight.
All fans, coaches and players loyal to the Scarlet and Gray are excited to see what the future holds for the son of a former TSUN basketball player and the brother of a Notre Dame tight end. All in all, our expectations couldn’t be any higher…..man.