Well, it’s about that time again.
I definitely need to start cracking on the incoming Buckeyes in this first installment of the fourth edition of this (for now) 23 part series titled Better Know A Buckeye. Whereas in previous years I had proceeded chronologically, by commitment date, I’m going to start with the out-of-state kids. First up is Jeff Heuerman, a tight end from Naples, Florida. One of two tight ends in this recruiting class, Heuerman recently entered the consciousness of Buckeye fans everywhere for stuntin’ w/ his coach on Twitter. Heuerman had an uneventful recruiting period, ultimately committing to Ohio State shortly after receiving an offer and taking an unofficial visit. I tell his story below. I then discuss strengths and weaknesses in the usual fashion, concluding with various things you might find interesting about Jeff. I conclude he is better known thereafter, putting him on the board and signing off with the more you know graphic.
Academics: 3.4 GPA
High School: Barron Collier HS; Naples, Florida
His Recruitment: Heuerman appeared on the recruiting radar largely after his junior season of football. Heuerman was already being identified as one of the best tight end prospects in the southeast and, therefore, the country. Whereas his position was already flooded with regional talents like Nick O’Leary, Jay Rome, and AC Leonard, getting his name mentioned in the same category underscores how important he was becoming to college football recruiters. The offers were starting to come in as well. By early March 2010, he already had offers from Purdue, Michigan State, Rutgers, Tennessee, South Florida and Maryland. He ultimately picked up more offers from Boston College, South Carolina, Wisconsin, LSU and was getting chased by Florida and Notre Dame by the end of the month.
And still, the race for Heuerman seemed to center on Michigan. His father was an alumnus of the university, as you probably know by now. He was a fan (albeit not a “die-hard”), making the University of Michigan something close to a “dream school” (though Heuerman himself never expressed it this way). That’s not to say there wasn’t some hesitation. For one, Papa Heuerman was not going to force the issue on his son and make him follow in his footsteps. It was important for the one time Michigan basketball player that his son find a place he wants to be at1, whether it was his alma mater or another university. Another issue was the current state of the program in Ann Arbor. It was not good, and Jeff Heuerman knew it.
“They run a spread offense now, their school is getting in trouble and their coaches are getting fired, they got a whole mess going on there.”
Still, Jeff remained interested in Michigan (and other schools coming after him, like Purdue). He even vowed to make it to Michigan for an unofficial visit in April, along with other Midwest schools. He came away impressed with the coaching staff and the program in spite of his justified reservations about its direction after just two years under Rodriguez.
Around this time, it was Ohio State that emerged as a serious competitor as well. While Heuerman was interested in Michigan, the rival Buckeyes became interested in him. The coaching staff wanted him to make an unofficial visit, which would be no problem for Heuerman who was already on a Midwest tour. Not only did Ohio State’s spring game coincide with the week of his planned visit to Michigan (and subsequent stops in nearby West Lafayette and South Bend), but Heuerman’s aunt and uncle (from his father’s side) reside in Columbus. If a program like Ohio State was interested, it would be fairly cheap to return the favor.
Heuerman left the Spring Game very impressed with what he saw. Importantly, he also left with an official offer from Ohio State. As it turned out, that was all that Heuerman needed before pulling the trigger.
His Commitment: Heuerman gave a verbal commitment to Ohio State on the Monday after his weekend visit to Ohio State, the first such recruiting present from the spring game. Even Jeff was surprised how fast this ended. He never intended to drag out his recruitment past the summer, wanting to make a verbal commitment before his senior season of football. Ultimately, he didn’t think it necessary to prolong the issue, not when he already knew where he wanted to be.
“I just knew,” Heuerman said. “When I got off (Ohio State’s) campus, I just knew I wanted to be a Buckeye. There’s really no sense waiting. When you know something you know it, so I went ahead and pulled the trigger.”
“I didn’t plan on committing this early,” Heuerman said. “I just went up there and it was a perfect fit. I felt the most comfortable of all the schools I visited. I felt Ohio State is the best fit.”
It wasn’t all concerns about the intangibles that brought him to Ohio State. Heuerman felt more comfortable working in a pro-style offense like Ohio State’s and found the depth chart more appealing.
Heuerman said his style of play fits well with the Buckeyes’ offense. Coaches liked the tight end because of his blocking ability. Heuerman also said Ohio State is thin at the position, so he should compete for playing time immediately.
“When Jeff came back (from Columbus), he was very, very sure,” Barron Collier coach Mark Ivey said. “His father (Paul) and I presented him different scenarios, and he sat on it for two or three hours. He said he thought about it again and again and again, and Ohio State is the right place to be.”
The first of two tight end commitments in this class, Heuerman was the tenth commitment of the class. He was the next verbal commitment after fellow Floridian and January enrollee Jeremy Cash. Both are pictured at the spring game below, from Josh Winslow.
Where He Excels: Heuerman is more in the mold of what Ohio State wants and expects from the position. He’s not as dynamic as Ben Koyack, who Ohio State also pursued very heavily before he eventually committed to Notre Dame. I don’t think anyone will confuse Heuerman for DJ Williams or Aaron Hernandez, and that’s fine too. Heuerman blocks, and he does it well. His offense at Barron Collier was run-intensive, which, by itself, says little of value. Most high school football in this country is run-oriented. Fortunately for us, his coach at Barron Collier used this fairly standard approach to emphasize the virtue of blocking. In fact, a lot of Heuerman’s time in practice was spent w/ the offensive line in their drills. At 6’5, 240lbs, Heuerman has the frame to play at the position and the hands (in the trenches) to play it well. The hands part is important. He usually gets good placement with his hands on first contact, but also shows an awareness to correct during the course of a play if his placement upon first contact was not optimal.
That’s not to say Heuerman is destined to be a glorified lineman for the Buckeyes, just that being a vertical threat or H-back just isn’t his role. It wasn’t his role in high school and it won’t be at Ohio State. That being said, Heuerman is not a liability in the receiving game. He did tally 15 catches, 350 yards and 6 TDs as a junior, though I think those numbers dropped off as a senior. Honestly, I was a little more skeptical of a receiving role for Reid Fragel Rock, but Ohio State has gotten creative in getting him involved.
It’s important to be mindful of what Ohio State expects at the position. You don’t block; you don’t play.
Must Work On: Surprise! A blocking tight end is evaluated to be a little slow2 to get into a designated route and is not the best route runner. At 6’5, he’s a nice, big target. He even shows adequate ability to extend his hands for a catch. However, he’s not that 6’8 frame that Fragel Rock has. Getting Heuerman involved as a receiver will require keeping Heuerman underneath. In the case of Fragel, Ohio State has used him as a receiver when opposing defense simply don’t expect it (and thus give him a free release or very loose coverage). You remember the Sugar Bowl zone read play action pass, but Fragel also caught a 2pt conversion against Wisconsin. On that play, he initially blocked a defensive end, before passing him off to Mike Adams (at left tackle) and popping out for a wide open catch after Wisconsin’s linebacker had dropped into coverage and had written off Fragel as a blocker. Stuff like that is how you’re going to get Heuerman involved as a receiver.
Redshirt? I’m inclined to say no. Ohio State is a little thin at tight end, but is not hurting at the position, per se. One unfortunate injury to Stoneburner or Fragel Rock makes this a certain yes. Beyond that, Ohio State could try to redshirt him if they believed Heuerman wasn’t ready (and if Stoneburner and Fragel Rock could shoulder the load throughout the season). I don’t think that’s the case. He’s already enrolled, will benefit from the conditioning program and additional reps in practice and will likely see the field as a result of it.
Highlights: This is the best I could do. Heuerman is #82.
- As you know by now, his father, Paul, was a letterman and team captain for the basketball Wolvereenies in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He was even an Academic All-American. His father was a graduate Akron’s Firestone (FIRESTONE)3 high school and is in the Summit County Hall of Fame. He was a late round draftee of the Indiana Pacers before enrolling in law school at the University of Florida. Out of those unholy university affiliations comes a Buckeye son. Not bad at all.
- Jeff Svoboda details how hockey was Jeff Heuerman’s first love. He dropped it in favor of football entering high school.
- Teammate Torey Campbell flocked north as well, committing to Iowa.
- He participated in a signing day ceremony at his high school via Skype.
- NaplesNews.com is a great resource. They recently caught up with Heuerman to discuss how he’s transitioned to life as a student at Ohio State. My favorite quote, said during a bitter ice storm:
“There’s nothing I don’t like. Even the cold is kind of nice.”
- Your first inclination is to pronounce his surname as “Hewerman”. I’ve heard it pronounced as “Higherman” every time.
- Eleven Warriors has some resources on Heuerman you’ll find of value. Alex (I think) videotaped the signing day press conference. You can see position coach John Peterson discuss Heuerman and part of a post-presser interview (longer video: here) on the site’s YouTube account. He was also part of their “catching up with” series, which you can read here.
- Younger brother is Mike Heuerman. He’s currently a sophomore who will certainly test the recruiting waters himself when the time comes.
- Will wear #86 for this season.
- High school’s nickname is the Cougars. They play in the same league as Naples HS, where Carlos Hyde attended. They routinely play Immokalee, the alma mater of Brian Rolle.
- Vital statistics, courtesy of Bucknuts:
* Vital Statistics: Heuerman has already enrolled at Ohio State. His dad, Paul, played basketball at Michigan. As a sophomore, he caught 12 passes for a team that went and 7-3 overall and qualified for the playoffs. Heuerman, who plays in a run-oriented offense, caught 15 passes for 350 yards and six touchdowns during his junior season as Barron Collier again made the playoffs and finished with a 9-1 record. He also played defense as a senior and had 11 sacks.
* Rankings: Heuerman is rated as the nation’s sixth-best tight end prospect by ESPN Scouts Inc. He is rated asFlorida’s No. 79 prospect overall by SuperPrep.
I think Jeff Heuerman is now better known.
Keep stuntin’, Jeff.
|Class of 2011|
|Name||Position||Hometown||Better Known?||Name||Position||Hometown||Better Known?|
|Michael Bennett||DT||Centerville, OH||Bryce Haynes||LS||Cumming, GA|
|Brian Bobek||OL||Palatine, IL||Jeff Heuerman||TE||Naples, FL||02.13|
|Tommy Brown||OL||Arkon, OH||Cardale Jones||QB||Cleveland, OH|
|Braxton Miller||QB||Huber Heights, OH|
|Jeremy Cash||DB||Plantation, FL||Steve Miller||DE||Swingtown, OH|
|Conner Crowell||LB||Waldorf, MD||Ejuan Price||LB||Pittsburgh, PA|
|Chase Farris||DL||Elyria, OH||Ryan Shazier||LB||Plantation, FL|
|DerJuan “PeeWee” Gambrell||DB||Toledo, OH||Devin Smith||WR||Massillon, OH|
|Curtis Grant||LB||Richmond, VA||Evan Spencer||WR||Vernon Hills, IL|
|Doran Grant||DB||Akron, OH||Ron Tanner||DB||Columbus, OH|
|Joel Hale||DT||Greenwood, IN||Antonio Underwood||OL||Shaker Heights, OH|
|Kenny Hayes||DE||Toledo, OH||Nick Vannett||TE||Westerville, OH|
- You’ll read how Papa Heuerman stressed this at a signing day ceremony held at Jeff’s high school. [↩]
- I’ve seen Fragel’s 40 as high as 4.6, but usually around 4.8. I believe it’s closer to 4.8. [↩]
- This is an inside joke for the few that will get it. You’ll have to deal with those from time to time on my blog. [↩]