Jake Stoneburner was a star receiver in high school who was asked to play tight end once he arrived at Ohio State. He took a redshirt season and started putting on the weight he'd need to play the new position.
This is where the story gets interesting. As Stoneburner bulked up by more than 20 pounds, he didn't lose any speed. In fact, he has gotten even faster.
The junior recently finished an electronically timed 40-yard dash at 4.49 seconds, which was nearly two-tenths of a second better than his freshman year. That's coming from a guy who is 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, with a hang clean of 400 pounds in the weight room. Buckeyes strength coach Eric Lichter calls those numbers “freakish.”
“Jake has always been able to run, and he is fast enough to outrun anyone," Lichter said. "But to have gained 20 pounds of muscle and to have this type of explosiveness in the 40 is really special.”
Stoneburner says his lifting program at Dublin (Ohio) Coffman High School prepared him for college, and he was quickly able to put on about 15 pounds his redshirt freshman year. But too much of that was the typical "Freshman 15." After that year, he worked on adding muscle by improving his nutrition.
"I never eat fast food and never really eat fried food," he said. "I like candy, so I still eat some candy. I have a couple of cheat meals, but it's mostly a lot of protein, chicken and vegetables. I'm constantly feeding my body what it needs, and that's how you get results."
Stoneburner credits his lower-body work for his increases in strength and speed. His best performance on the squat is 505 pounds. He usually works out with defensive tackle John Simon, one of the strongest players on the team.
"We'll do 10 sets of 10 and really kill our legs," he says. "It helps with muscle endurance so you don't get tired during the game."
Ohio State might need Stoneburner's endurance this season. With star receiver DeVier Posey suspended for the first five games, the Buckeyes lack experience in the receiving corps. The young wideouts had their ups and downs this spring. Coaches occasionally lined up Stoneburner in the slot during spring drills and could feature him more in the passing game this season.
"We don't have any receivers who have proven themselves, so I feel like a tight end could be the quarterback's best friend this year," Stoneburner said.
To get ready for a potentially larger role, Stoneburner has spent time this preseason running routes with Indianapolis Colts receiver and former Buckeyes star Anthony Gonzalez, who was working out in Columbus during the NFL lockout. Gonzalez, coincidentally, was the last player before Stoneburner to wear No. 11 for Ohio State.
"He was an incredible route runner when he was here, and he's been able to critique me on little things and help me get a lot better," Stoneburner says. "It feels really natural, because that's what I did in high school. I'm able to run routes and get open like I thought I could."
Even if he's built like a tight end these days.