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Football: Ohio State tight ends embrace their role in the run game

Ohio State redshirt sophomore tight end Luke Farrell (89) carries the ball downfield in the first quarter of the game against Rutgers on Sept. 8. Ohio State won 52-3. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo Editor

Ohio State has a tendency to recruit highly-touted tight ends.

Of the four tight ends looking to make an impact for the Buckeyes this season, redshirt junior Rashod Berry, redshirt sophomore Luke Farrell, redshirt sophomore Jake Hausmann and freshman Jeremy Ruckert, three of them were rated in the top 10 of their position in their respective recruiting classes.

With that, all four players came in with a similar mindset: to change the view of the role tight ends have in the Ohio State passing game.

First comes an expectation for a part of the game that many tight ends were not familiar with coming into college: blocking.

In high school, Berry said he never blocked as a tight end. However, when he entered the position room at Ohio State, the expectation remained.

“As a tight end in high school, you don’t block,” Berry said. “It’s a natural thing. If you got it, you got it, if you don’t, you don’t, it’s going to take time. It took time for me, but once you get it, it’s muscle memory that you are not going to miss.”

For Berry, he didn’t have it.

The redshirt junior said he was not excited about that part of his position. However, knowing blocking was the only way he would see the field as a tight end, Berry began to work, repeating rep after rep, learning the basics.

He created an attitude each block he made against a mat in practice.

“You have to have the mindset, ‘I’m about to kill this dude,’” Berry said. “‘I’m about to hit this block.’”

In the mind of offensive coordinator and tight ends coach Kevin Wilson, blocking is everything.

With the running game stagnating with the rise of redshirt sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins and the passing game, Wilson has utilized two-tight end sets, using both Farrell and Berry, with one on the line of scrimmage, the primary position, and one as what many consider to be a fullback, blocking for the runner.

This is the part of the tight end position that is crucial to the overall success of the Ohio State offense.

“As coach Wilson likes to say, ‘You run into a lot of problems when you don’t have a tight end that can block well,’ whether it’s in protection or in perimeter running, running the quarterback too much and getting hits on him,” Farrell said. “He feels and we feel that it’s crucial for our offense for what we want to do.”  

Berry has a different approach to his blocking skill.

Recruited as a tight end out Lorain, Ohio, in the 2015 class, Berry moved to the defensive line for the 2016 season, playing 10 games at defensive end. He was moved back to the tight end position prior to the start of the 2017 season.

With experience at both positions, Berry thinks he has a unique ability to pick up blocks other tight ends might not catch.

“Just knowing what a D-lineman is going to do just because I did it,” Berry said. “It’s helping me on the blocking side, helping me where the linebackers are going to be at.”  

The Ohio State tight ends, according to Farrell, are expecting to do everything evenly, excel in the blocking game and in the passing game. Berry said the passing game is going to come.

However, the blocking aspect at tight end is a thankless job. But it’s one Berry has embraced, celebrating each time he makes a big block to secure a score for his teammate.

“That’s my passion for the game,” Berry said. “When the game is on the line or even if it’s not on the line, just seeing my teammates score, it’s excitement for me, doing what I can for the team.”

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