Stoneburner breaks through
Senior tight end begins to put offseason behind him with TD catch
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The suspension never came with a loss of playing time. Jake Stoneburner's touchdown drought really didn't last that long either.
But after a trying couple months for the Ohio State senior following his June arrest for public urination and a modest personal scoreless streak of three games dating to last year, there was no hiding the relief for Stoneburner after breaking through in a 31-16 win over Central Florida on Saturday at Ohio Stadium.
"I learned how your actions, no matter how big or how little, affect the entire team. Basically it's a team thing, and I made a mistake and everyone had to pay for it."
Stoneburner started settling his debt with the Buckeyes with a hard-working, selfless approach during training camp while learning positions all over the field to add versatility to the offense. And despite chipping in a couple of catches in the opener, the offense really cashed in on Stoneburner's unique set of skills early in the third quarter against the Knights when be broke off a route and headed to the back of the end zone with Braxton Miller scrambling in the red zone.
Stoneburner provided a big, sure-handed, wide-open target when he got there, and Miller's deft touch from 12 yards out supplied the perfect opportunity for the converted wide receiver to help turn the page from his offseason incident. At the same time, it also offered another reminder of just how important Stoneburner is to the passing attack coming off a season in which he paced the Buckeyes with seven touchdown receptions.
Just as important, it helped prove that even after losing his scholarship over the summer and missing some valuable workouts with his quarterback as part of his punishment, Stoneburner hasn't forgotten what it's like playing with Miller.
"I've learned every time that Braxton scrambles, just go deep," Stoneburner said. "He has a tendency to throw it deep to guys that can get back there, and I just happened to find an open void. He saw me, made a great touch pass."
Stoneburner was only on the other end of one other attempt from Miller, and with four catches combined in Ohio State's two early wins, he perhaps hasn't been quite as productive as anticipated given his expanded role in the spread offense.
New coach Urban Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman both have had great success in the past taking athletic tight ends and moving them all over the field to create mismatches, and Stoneburner is expected to be next in the line of breakout players at the hybrid position on the way to the NFL.
Early in the transition, Stoneburner admitted to having a few "mental lapses" when he got tired. But he's still embracing the responsibilities that come with playing multiple spots on the field, and whether it was throwing a key block to spring Miller on a touchdown rush or giving him an outlet on a broken play for his own score, Stoneburner started showing flashes of how dangerous he can be over the weekend.
"Yeah, that was nice," fullback Zach Boren said. "[Left tackle] Jack [Mewhort] and Jake have come back and done a great job in camp trying to be leaders of the offense, trying to be leaders on the field. They're going to help this offense get a lot better, too.
"We need them to be vocal and be in that leader role like they have been."
The Buckeyes also don't mind the touchdowns.
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