Unleashing Stoneburner

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- There was surely no need to twist Jake Stoneburner's arm.

The change in position would allow him to line up all over the field, put him in more winnable matchups and surely boost his production -- not exactly a package anybody would want to turn down.

But just in case the senior didn't believe coach Urban Meyer or offensive coordinator Tom Herman could really deliver all that by turning a tight end into a hybrid wide receiver, the evidence was right there on film at previous stops for both of them. And Stoneburner is now next in line to reap the benefits as the Buckeyes shuffle him around the field and turn him into one of their most versatile offensive weapons.

"He'll do a lot of things for us," Herman said. "He still gets a little work at tight end here and there if we're in different formations and personnel packages that we have. But we still kind of see him as that multipurpose guy that we always have.

"He's something that, I don't want to say common, but I'm used to that and coach is used to that. It's been easy to see where he fits and where his specialties can be."

The grand unveiling will be Saturday when the season finally opens at home against Miami (Ohio), but the Buckeyes have left plenty of hints along the way. And both Herman and Meyer have players they can point to as clear examples who have thrived in the role now carved out for Stoneburner.

Meyer turned Aaron Hernandez into his top target at Florida, utilizing his combination of speed and power to apply pressure on either linebackers or defensive backs as the future New England Patriots tight end racked up a team-high 68 receptions in 2009.

Herman had even more statistical ammunition ready for Stoneburner if necessary after coordinating an offense at Rice in 2008 that prominently featured another NFL draft pick. James Casey, now a tight end for the Houston Texans, piled up 111 catches, the second-best total in the country, while continuing to be utilized as a blocker on the edge.

Stoneburner can still provide some assistance in the running game thanks to his 6-foot-5, 245-pound frame. He might even do so at times while lining up in the backfield this fall. But he'll also be featured as a true wide receiver on the perimeter. He also could show up in the slot just as easily as he might stay locked to the formation at his old spot at tight end.

And that unpredictability figures to provide some stress for a defense even before the ball is snapped as it tries to account for the whereabouts of Ohio State's top returning touchdown threat.

"To say that he was a 280-pound, on-the-line tight end ever -- we're all joking," wide receivers coach Zach Smith said. "He's still doing some things for us, and he's always been an athletic, receiving tight end. That kid is naturally gifted in the throw game, and he's got the body type and the ability level to do things in the run game.

"Obviously a kid like that is a mismatch problem for other teams. A kid that can play wide receiver and be efficient in the throw game and also be an effective tight end, that's one we want to utilize. To say that we have plans for him, obviously we do. As far as whether he's a wideout or a tight end, it's really just who he meets with and where he's at day to day."

Or, perhaps, where he's at play to play.