Upon Urban Meyer’s arrival in late 2011 as coach of the Ohio State football team, the possibility of his spread offense in Columbus excited Buckeye Nation.
The No. 4 Buckeyes (8-0, 4-0) rank fifth in the country in points per game, averaging 47.3 a contest. But one position in Meyer’s offense many believed would get more attention, the tight end, has become lost in the shuffle at times.
OSU’s starter at tight end, junior Jeff Heuerman, has receptions in five of the Buckeyes’ eight wins this season, but has only snagged one touchdown.
Heuerman didn’t record a catch in his team’s 63-14 drubbing of Penn State Saturday, but said he doesn’t let his lack of catches bother him.
“The ball gets dispersed around however it does (on offense),” Heuerman said Monday. “I’m happy doing my job, whether it’s blocking, whether it’s catching. Whatever it is, I’m happy. I enjoy doing it. Obviously we’re 20-0 so its working out pretty good, so I’m not complaining.”
Tight ends and fullbacks coach Tim Hinton said the reason Heuerman and redshirt-sophomore tight end Nick Vannett are not getting the ball as much has nothing to do with their abilities on the field.
“(Against Penn State) there (were) a couple of plays that we called that I thought going into the game, the tight end would get the ball, we all thought the tight end would get the ball,” Hinton said Monday. “Penn State didn’t cooperate. But on the one, they took the two defenders and guarded the tight end on it, well Carlos Hyde caught a pass, went down the sideline, that’s OK. Really. And the bottom line is that we all get what we want if we win.”
Meyer said he wishes his tight end could get more involved in the passing game.
“Jeff Heuerman (is) playing at a very high level right now,” Meyer said Monday. “Certainly in blocking, (we) need to get him some more catches. But (he’s) playing at a very high level.”
Heuerman has also been heavily involved for blocking for the ninth-ranked OSU rushing attack. In the win against the Nittany Lions, he had key blocks on junior quarterback Braxton Miller’s second touchdown run of the night, as well as senior running back Carlos Hyde’s 39-yard scamper in the second quarter. Along with the rest of the offensive line, Heuerman has helped Hyde gash opposing defenses for 464 yards and seven touchdowns in the last three games.
Heuerman has already nearly doubled the number of receptions he had in 2012, and credits his relationship with Hinton as reason for becoming a force on the line as well as improving his production in the passing game.
“Coach Hinton and I have an outstanding relationship. He’s an outstanding coach,” Heuerman said. “I owe a lot of everything that I’ve been able to accomplish here at Ohio State to him over the last few years.”
The two work so well together that Heuerman even took the time Monday to eavesdrop in on Hinton’s press conference, sticking his head in with a big smile on his face to listen to what his coach had to say about him. That incited a laugh from Hinton, who jokingly said ‘Don’t ever coach a guy like that,’ because Heuerman seemed to be enjoying himself as he lent an ear to Hinton’s conversation with the media. Hinton was quick to rescind his comment.
“Here is the deal: He’s really, really, really good,” Hinton said. “I mean really good at what he does. He (has) a knack for it. He understands leverage, and you know like every great football player you’re around, they’re very football intelligent. And he’s a very football intelligent guy.”
Although Heuerman admits he did not not fully trust Meyer, Hinton and the rest of the coaches once they installed the spread offense at OSU, that has since changed.
“I’ve learned to trust (Hinton) a whole lot. I think that’s a big thing,” Heuerman said. “Last year, everything was kind of new, and I wouldn’t say I 100 percent trusted him, but this year, we have a great relationship. I trust him with anything in my life.”
Heuerman and the Buckeyes are scheduled to pay a visit to Purdue (1-6, 0-3) Saturday as they look to continue to add to the nation’s longest winning streak. Kickoff is slated for 12 p.m.