This week on Buckeye Empire has all been about the tight ends and fullbacks, places that on most teams are rarely recognized for more than a couple plays a game. Ohio State has a little different history when it comes to these usually “second tier” offensive options, especially at the tight end position. Looking back to the past decade or so in Ohio State football history there are a few names that stick out above others. There was national champion Ben Hartsock, who is still active in the NFL, Jake Ballard, who is coming off of a knee injury for a Patriots squad dying for a reliable tight end, and now Jake Stoneburner, who after not being drafted was signed as a free agent by the Green Bay Packers.
Productivity for touchdowns in Stoney’s senior year was down from his junior year, but a switch in the offensive scheme was mainly to blame for that. His sophomore year was outstanding, recording 21 catches at a 10+ yard average for 2 touchdowns, but his junior year was where he really excelled. In 2011 he recorded fewer catches (14), but averaged almost 14 yards a catch and went in for 7 scores to rank 4th nationally in touchdowns for a tight end. What’s amazing is during that “down” senior year for touchdowns he still raked in 16 catches for an amazing 16.8 ypc average while scoring 4 touchdowns. It’s clear that he was a workhorse at the tight end/slot position, and those stats will be missed.
What will be missed even more is the leadership that Jake brought to team looking to make a statement his senior year. Last year everyone knew that our season may be for nothing because of the lack of ability to make a bowl game, and the players didn’t care. Guys like Stoneburner were a big reason that team kept their head on their shoulders, and went out to prove something. Having his own off-the-field issues before the season started, it was clear a quick lesson was learned. From that point on it was all business for senior captain who did not want to spoil his last chance to make an even bigger name for himself as a Buckeye. Trying to manage 120+ college age men to the type of notoriety this sport allows is tough for a coaching staff, that has clearly been seen. What makes it a little easier is having guys in the locker room who can be there when the coaches can’t, who can offer advice on the weekends or in the classroom, guys who can lessen the negative decision making. This is what Jake Stoneburner brought to the Buckeyes, this is what will be missed, and this is what needs to be replaced on this year’s team. Who will be there to step up and be there as a leader, as a mentor, as an experienced guy who lets his own experiences allow him to keep the other guys level headed has unfortunately yet to be seen.