August 8, 2009

Stoneburner embracing new role

COLUMBUS - Playing wide receiver his entire career, Jake Stoneburner would be a liar if he told you that he was excited upon learning the Ohio State coaching staff moved him to tight end.

He may have saw it coming, but that didn't initially make it easy, especially given the way tight ends have typically been used in Ohio State's offense.

"At the beginning of the recruiting process I didn't really want to be a tight end and I didn't think I could put on the weight to be one," Stoneburner said. "I guess after spring ball after putting on the weight, I am fine with it."

Stoneburner has put on about 15 pounds of muscle and reportedly weighs around 240 at the moment, which is spectacular given the redshirt freshman didn't lose any of his speed.

Because making plays in the passing game is his No. 1 joy when it comes to playing football, being moved to tight end at a school that doesn't utilize the position as much in the offense was tough.

But because what Stoneburner has been told and how many reps in practice he has been getting in the passing game, he is optimistic he can become the prototypical athletic tight end that is a high option in the passing attack.

"I don't know how much (the position) is going to change, I just feel like we are going to get more looks and more opportunities because of the pressure we can give opposing defenses," Stoneburner said. "I don't think they would move a receiver like me to tight end to block. Obviously they had some idea that they wanted to start throwing it a little more (to the tight end). I mean, I can block pretty well, but you wouldn't want me in just to block.

"I think it is moving in the right direction for the tight ends to get more looks," Stoneburner said. "Like I said, it will probably put pressure on the defenses. I didn't mind getting moved because they told me I could be the game-changing player. If they would have told me I am going to be a blocking tight end, that wouldn't be the most exciting thing, but I look forward to trying to be that game changing player."

Stoneburner expects not only to have his hand down on the ground, but also to be in motion and possible line up as an H-back.

"I think all of them. I mean, during the spring I had my hand down when I was in there by myself and when it was me and (Jake Ballard) I was split out sometimes," Stoneburner said. "Sometimes I was in the H-back role and was in motion. They had me doing everything. I am pretty confident (that I will be seeing the ball) because they worked on it a lot during the spring and I can only get better from then."

Stoneburner's body has really changed and the increase in size of his upper body is certainly noticeable, but at the same time still looks like he can make plays in the passing game.

With that, he still feels like a tight end now.

"My body is changing to be like a tight end. I have a bigger upper body and I am running with all the guys who play tight end," Stoneburner said. "So I really do feel like a tight end now."

In order to get fully comfortable in his new role, Stoneburner understands that he is going to have to develop a solid relationship with sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor.

"He is always saying that I better be ready for those deep balls over the middle and I think that is really where we can apply pressure to the defense," Stoneburner said. "Me and Jake running down the middle, and there is nothing you can really do about it and just the defensive coordinator is always going to have to think about that. I think (Pryor) is ready for that."

Ironically enough, Ohio State should know what it feels like to have to worry about receiving tight ends, especially because they have been used against the Buckeyes in big games. One of note was a touchdown pass in the 2008 National Championship game against LSU where the Tigers hit a tight end down the middle of the field for a touchdown.

"I think it's a game changer if you have a tight end that can catch the ball and run with the ball and get open," Stoneburner said. "It just adds a whole other dimension to your offense. We can be pretty dangerous on offense."

Even with being involved in the passing game, Stoneburner knows you aren't going to be a tight end that sees the field a lot if you can't block, so he has been working diligently to improve his blocking abilities.

"It wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be," Stoneburner said of adjusting to being a blocker. "I was pretty nervous at first about blocking the big guys like (Cameron Heyward) and all of those, but I actually did a lot better than I thought. Toward the end of spring ball I actually got pretty confident with (my blocking).

"Cam is one of the toughest guys to block, because he is like 6-6 or 6-7 and he just bull rushes," Stoneburner added. "You just have to get in front of them and once the ball gets by them you did your job just as long as they don't make the play… I feel like I can hold my own."

Stoneburner is just encouraged that Ohio State's offense can really be a big weapon this season.

"I think it could be a really dangerous offense," Stoneburner said. "I mean, we have speed everywhere and a bunch of young guys who nobody has heard of, or has heard of and has really never seen play. I think we are going to surprise a lot of people."

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