Monday, June 28, 2010

STONEBURNER BRINGS A 'WHOLE OTHER DIMENSION' TO THE BUCKEYES

COLUMBUS — When Ohio State takes the field this fall, there's going to be a lot of familiar faces on the offensive side of the football.

(left, photo of Jake Stoneburner by The Buckeye Times/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)

Quarterback Terrelle Pryor, tailbacks Brandon Saine and Dan "Boom" Herron, as well as wide receivers DeVier Posey and Dane Sanzenbacher, give the Buckeyes the experience and the talent at the skill positions to make a legitimate run at Glendale this season.

The offense will be more wide open in 2010, and should be very similar to the 2006 Buckeyes, which consisted of Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Troy Smith, wide receivers Ted Ginn Jr. and Anthony Gonzalez, and running backs Antonio Pittman and Chris "Beanie" Wells.

By the way, that team played for a National Championship in Glendale that season.

But unlike that great 2006 team, the 2010 Buckeyes have something the Smith-led squad didn't ... a playmaker at tight end.

Ohio State red-shirt sophomore, Jake Stoneburner, is this season's secret weapon. The Dublin, Ohio native should become a major weapon in the Buckeyes arsenal this fall.

Although the 6-foot-5, 245 pounder only caught two passes last season, playing behind senior Jake Ballard, Stoneburner showed this spring that he can be a real force at the tight end position, something the Buckeyes haven't had during the Jim Tressel era.

I know it's a lot to put on an unproven sophomore, but during spring camp — as well as the spring game where he caught three passes for 43 yards (all from Pryor in the first quarter) — Stoneburner looked like Dallas Clark of the Indianapolis Colts. He was catching everything and appeared to be a favorite target of Pryor all camp long.

"Man, we've got Jake stepping in. Jake's a whole other dimension," Pryor said of Stoneburner in April. "I think he is going to be a big time play maker."

Ohio State assistant head coach/receivers coach, Darrell Hazell, agreed with his quarterback.

"I tell you what's going to help us this year and that is Jake Stoneburner," Hazell said. "He brings an added dimension of speed up the middle of the field and that can create a lot of problems for people. It keeps the safeties on the hash, it gets the wideouts open and if they cover him, he's going to run right by them and catch the ball."

Of course, playing tight end at Ohio State you're going to be expected to block on occasion. Let's face it, the Buckeyes are still going to tote the rock, so Stoneburner — who is more of a big wide receiver, than your prototype tight end — must be able to handle the blocking duties, as well.

OSU offensive coordinator Jim Bollman thinks his young tight end can handle it.

"He's a great route runner, he runs really fast, he's done a great job of getting bigger and stronger," Bollman said. "We would like to think that he can handle all aspects of the deal."

If he can, the Buckeyes offense is going to be scary good.

Maybe even good enough for a date in the desert.

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