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Tight end depth eases Stoneburner switch

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Don’t fret about Ohio State senior Jake Stoneburner switching from tight end to wide receiver – the rising crop of tight end talent could allow for another player to emerge in Stoneburner’s absence.

Stoneburner, a native of Dublin, Ohio, led the 2011 Buckeyes with seven touchdown receptions and tied for the team lead in catches with 14 in his role as tight end, but Buckeye coaches confirmed the player is working out exclusively with the wide receivers now.

However, OSU’s depth and rising talent at tight end will allow Stoneburner to make the switch without setting hindering the team.

“(Stoneburner is) making the transition for a bigger guy to play receiver,” OSU receivers coach Zach Smith said Friday. “It hasn’t been a struggle but it’s just tough to do. He’s one of the only guys that I’ve met or have seen that could do it and he’s very, very talented.”

Stoneburner, along with junior offensive lineman Jack Mewhort, was arrested on June 2 and charged with obstructing official business after urinating and public and subsequently running away from police.

A day later, first-year Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer suspended the two from the team and released Stoneburner and Mewhort from their scholarships on July 15.

The two, however, successfully rejoined the team at the start of OSU’s fall camp this August and are actively practicing with the rest of the team, and when they did, Stoneburner quickly began to attend meetings and participate in practice with Smith’s wide receiving group.

Even as Stoneburner, who collected 193 receiving yards last season, departs first-year tight end and fullbacks coach Tim Hinton’s player group, the Buckeyes appear to be ripe with talent at the position.

During a Friday press conference, Hinton noted several players under his direction, including senior Zach Boren, sophomore Jeff Heuerman, senior Adam Homan and redshirt freshman Nick Vannett, that can split the responsibilities. 

“You know, the great thing about it – in my room, we have some really versatile players,” Hinton said. “Nick Vannett and Jeff Heuerman and obviously Zach Boren, who plays multiple positions. Adam Homan’s been learning multiple positions.” 

The progress of Heuerman and Vannett has made Stoneburner’s move to receiver easier on the team, Hinton said.

“We really (developed) those two young tight ends. We’re really pleased with that and, really, they’ve had a very, very good camp,” Hinton said. “They’re a lot better now than they were in the spring and you can see that youthful spirit and energy and they’re getting better every day.”

Hinton lauded Heuerman’s blocking ability, calling the player a “very, very good point of attack blocker.” The Naples, Fla., native also pulled in a single catch for 25 yards in 2011, and shows promise as a pass catcher as well,” Hinton said.

The second up-and-comer in the tight end group is Vannett, whom Meyer praised as one of the most improved players on the squad.

During OSU’s Aug. 12 media day, Meyer confirmed that Vannett is in the running for playing time this coming season.

“If you notice, I never really (brought) his name up because he wasn’t really a very functional guy for us,” Meyer said, “but I love giving credit where credit is due and (Vannett) got real busy about learning the playbook, studying the game … Tim Hinton and Nick Vannett have done a nice job.”

Aside from Heuerman and Vannett, there’s still Homan and Boren, who was voted one of five senior captains for the 2012 Buckeyes, according to a Sunday OSU athletics release.

Hinton said each player will figure into the Buckeyes’ offensive plan.

“You’re going to see a lot of multiple personnel groupings. You’re going to see a lot of guys on the field,” Hinton said. “I would really doubt if all those guys don’t play a lot.”

The Buckeyes will kick off their 2012 campaign Sept. 1 at Ohio Stadium with a noon game against Miami University (Ohio).  

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