August 13, 2010

Stoneburner expects to catch passes

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Guessing how many times Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor will throw to the tight end this season has drawn some laughs around the Buckeye community.

That's because in the recent past the tight end has been somewhat ignored as a receiving option under Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel.

But starting tight end Jake Stoneburner doesn't think it is a joke.

"It is getting pretty old," Stoneburner said. "People are always saying, 'How many balls are the tight ends going to catch this year?' Or 'Is the tight end even going to catch the ball?'

"But I think this year you'll actually see us getting the ball," he continued. "The coaches are more confident with us and more confident with Terrelle. The offense has opened up a little bit so I think everybody is going to get a big share of the ball."

But if the past few seasons yield any feeling on the matter, many are taking the "I'll believe it when I see it" approach.

And it is hard to blame them.

Last season Stoneburner was a reserve, but when in addition to former tight end Jake Ballard, both caught only a combined 16 passes a year ago. The year before that? Starting tight end Rory Nicol only caught six passes for 60 yards all season.

"I think it is going to happen this year," Stoneburner said. "With Terrelle throwing the ball a lot we will have a lot of opportunities. And with me and him being pretty good friends and having a lot of confidence in me, I think that will help, too."

The Buckeyes took a big hit in their receiving corps with the transfer of Lamaar Thomas after last year and the departure of sophomore Duron Carter, who was deemed academically ineligible.

Ohio State is in the middle of looking for a No. 3 wide receiver to replace Carter, but Stoneburner views himself as a go-to option in the receiving game. With Thomas and Carter absent, he is excited for the growing opportunity to catch the ball.

"We really only have three established guys (in the receiving corps) that have even played," Stoneburner said. "I think with the growing confidence with me and those two guys being gone, I think I will be able to get more opportunities at catching the ball."

If watching spring football and fall camp thus far have been any indication, Stoneburer looks to be one of Pryor's top three targets. Of course Pryor has become comfortable throwing it to Dane Sanzenbacher and DeVier Posey, but Stoneburner has had countless opportunities the catch the ball in practice.

In the past Tressel has indicated that throwing to the tight end takes discipline from Pryor in his check downs and understanding his different options. This season as Pryor continues to grow, Tressel is hoping all the other receiving options will be available in the expanded Buckeye offense.

"I hope (Jake) catches a lot of balls and I hope Brandon Saine could be a defacto wide receiver," Tressel said. "I want Brandon to be a weapon and I want our quarterback to throw it to the check downs and Boom can catch it and Jordan can catch it and so forth, but Jake Stoneburner absolutely in our plans."

The 6-foot-5, 245-pounder came to Ohio State as a wide receiver out of Dublin Coffman High School, but was moved to tight end shortly after his arrival.

For Stoneburner it is simple. If the coaches didn't intend for him to stretch the field from the tight end position by throwing it to him, he never would have been moved.

The Buckeyes have a prototypical tight end in Reid Fragel, who would certainly be a better option that Stoneburner if the coaches' intentions were solely to have the tight end in the game as an extra blocker.

"I don't think they would have moved me," Stoneburner said. "I am not 6-foot-8, 270 like Reid and able to knock people over. I am a decent blocker and I can get the job done but I think they moved me to stretch the defense and make the defensive coordinators on the other teams always have to worry about what I am doing."

Ari Wasserman is a staff writer for He can be reached at [email protected].

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