Name: Jake Ballard
Hometown: Springboro, Ohio
High School: Springboro
Position: Tight End
Last season: Split time with Rory Nicol and was often on the field in two-tight end sets
This season: Will assume a majority of the tight end play as a senior leader
by David Oglethorpe, OhioStateBuckeyes.com
Jake Ballard has spent his first three years at Ohio State playing with or behind Rory Nicol. Now, with Nicol off to the NFL Draft, Ballard finds himself with a starting job and the expectations that come with it.
“Now that Rory’s gone there’s a lot more responsibility and I can’t rely on him like before,” Ballard said after a recent practice. “We split time last year and we both had a lot on our shoulders. Now most of that falls on me with these young tight ends around.”
The youth that Ballard mentions comes in the form of two freshmen, Nic DiLillo and Jake Stoneburner. DiLillo, a redshirt freshman from Madison, Ohio, and Stoneburner, a first-year player out of Dublin, Ohio, will both be looking up to Ballard for guidance.
“They’re both coming along really well,” Ballard said. “Jake is coming over from wide receiver and he’s a fast tight end for us and he’s blocking well. They’re learning as fast as they can so we’ll see what happens when they get thrown into the fire a little bit.”
Ballard is well known on the field as a blocking tight end, but over the past few years, in that predominantly blocking role, he has still been able to tally some strong offensive numbers. In his sophomore year, he posted 15 receptions and two touchdowns, good for 149 yards. A year later, Ballard pulled in five catches for 73 yards. But in Coach Jim Tressel’s new packages, Ballard sees a more offensive role for the tight ends.
“Obviously we block first and catch second, but I think that the tight end position will bring something different to the table,” Ballard said. “I think we’ll spread the field a little more and catch a few more balls and be more involved in the receiving game.”
After a promising year last season, the Buckeyes are looking to improve on a 10-3 (7-1 Big Ten) season and are hopeful for the future. Ballard looks at the season one game at a time but he feels the team can “go all the way.” As for his own performance this year, Ballard promises to do all he can.
“I’m going to work hard every day, make some big blocks, some plays receiving and I hope to get the respect of all the fans out there.”