COLUMBUS — Ohio State senior wide receiver Jake Stoneburner was supposed to be a major focal point of the newly installed spread offense this season.
New Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer visualized Stoneburner out on the edges, creating major defensive mismatches with his athleticism and 6-foot-5, 245-pound frame.
However, the former tight end didn't seem to grasp what Meyer was intending when moving the senior to wide receiver in fall camp. The transition wasn't working the way the coach had intended. In fact, just three weeks ago, Stoneburner had become invisible out on the field. His effort seemed lax, his production was nonexistent. He just couldn't seem to come to grips with the switch.
This caused Meyer to have what he referred to as a "heart-to-heart" with Stoneburner in his office.
“That’s the issue: You don’t have to come to grips with anything,” Meyer said. “There’s cleats on the bottom of your shoes. Put them in the ground and go as hard as you can, and say, ‘Yes, Coach.’
"You know, some day the Chicago Bears might want you to run down and cover kickoffs. You don’t evaluate that and say, ‘Let’s think now ... ' You’re going to be out of work.”
Meyer said he was basically tired of the excuses, it was time for Stoneburner to live up to the hype.
"There is nothing worse than false confidence," Meyer said. "Maybe it's people telling you you're better than you are, and deep down, Jake Stoneburner is a very, very smart guy. He watches a lot of film and sees himself. However, there were sometimes when I first got here, Jake Stoneburner was (supposed to be) the greatest thing in the world and he wasn't ...
"For some reason he hadn't been (playing well). You can blame it's all the coach's faults, or Coach Tressel or everybody's fault, but at some point, you've got to play better. That's exactly what was said."
Stoneburner — who coming into the season was just one touchdown shy of an OSU-school record for tight ends — said he just wasn't sure what Meyer wanted from him when he made the position switch, and admits he questioned the move a bit.
"Not that I was being lazy or being soft," Stoneburner said. "I was just getting confused out there, playing a little bit tentative. Meyer just said to go out there and play. 'Who cares if you screw up?'"
Obviously, that "heart-to-heart" sit down worked to perfection because since that meeting Stoneburner has been a force, hauling in seven passes for 144 yards — including a game-clinching 72-yard catch-and-run score last Saturday evening at Penn State. He has 14 receptions for 236 yards and four touchdowns on the year.
"Since (the meeting) I've been playing as hard as I can, trying to do everything I can to help the team," Stoneburner said. "For him to sit down and tell me how he really felt about me and how he wants me to be playing, it really showed me he cared and that he wanted me to better myself. I mean, he always says if he's not coaching you, he doesn't care."
Meyer stated that he is extremely pleased with Stoneburner's turnaround. He said the senior is becoming the all-around talent he visualized when he came to Columbus prior to this season.
"His last few weeks have been the best football, according to him, of his career at Ohio State," Meyer said. "Lot of things that you don't see as well, but just his down field and physicalness. We're moving him inside and playing a little bit of fullback ever since we moved Zach (Boren) over (to linebacker). So some things you don't see, he's doing very well for us.
"We really appreciate his restored or rededication to making himself a great player."
Meyer believes the rejuvenated Stoneburner could have a chance to play at the next level.
"He's playing well," Meyer said. "You can watch the video, he's going after people, and he's much more physical. Our goal is also to help him have a career playing football.
"I think there is a potential now that that might happen."