Ohio State football: Stover settling in at tight end

COLUMBUS — Ryan Day saw the potential in Cade Stover to become a starter at tight end a long time ago.

But it took a while to convince Stover, who arrived at Ohio State thinking defense was where he could have the biggest impact.

With eight catches in OSU’s first three games and some solid blocking, Stover has convinced everyone tight end is where he can make the greatest contribution.

On Tuesday at his weekly press conference previewing No. 3 Ohio State’s game against Wisconsin on Saturday, Day recalled Stover’s journey from defensive end to tight end, to linebacker and back to tight end last spring when the Buckeyes needed to find someone to replace three-year starter Jeremy Ruckert, a third-round draft choice of the New York Jets.

“We saw the skill sets in him. Personally, I saw it a few years ago. We had a lot of conversations. He has a defensive mentality and I think sometimes his heart was a little bit on defense. But then he realized his ceiling was at tight end,” Day said.

“When he’s had his opportunities so far he’s made plays. You can see, first off, that he can block. He’s done a good job in protection. Now he is showing what he can do on the perimeter. He can run. He’s an athletic player. He was a good basketball player in high school. He’s got good ball skills,” he said.

No. 3 Ohio State (3-0) will take on Wisconsin (2-1) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Ohio Stadium.

“Wisconsin is a very good team,” Day said. “They’ve got the best running back we’ve seen so far and the best quarterback we’ve seen. There are a lot of bests we’ve seen.”

Wisconsin has been known for its running backs, its big offensive linemen and solid defense since the early 1990s when Barry Alvarez took over as its coach.

The Badgers appear to check all of those boxes this season, led by running back Braelon Allen, who is averaging 110 yards a game after rushing for 1,268 yards as a freshman last season.

Wisconsin’s wins were over FCS Illinois State and winless New Mexico State. It’s loss was against Washington State (3-0).

Some other thoughts from Day:

Henderson expected to play: Running back TreVeyon Henderson, who played only the first series in a 77-21 win over Toledo last Saturday and was reportedly seen in a walking boot after the game, should be ready to play against Wisconsin.

“It’s just a short-term thing. We’re expecting to have him Saturday,” Day said.

Hayden makes impression: With Henderson unavailable and OSU in total control of the game last Saturday night, freshman Dallan Hayden had a big night, rushing for 108 yards and a touchdown.

The thing Day liked best about Hayden’s performance? No fumbles.

“The No. 1 thing is he took care of the ball. He has to continue to do that going forward because the more you do that, the more trust you build with your teammates. That’s the No. 1 thing everybody is trying to do – show their teammates they can be counted on,” he said.

“I thought he had some really good lanes to run in. I thought the offensive line did a good job. But he also hit some holes and created some explosive plays for us.”

Cornerback issues: Day said OSU’s cornerbacks need to win more of the one-on-one battles with receivers.

“We have to do a better job of making plays when it comes to one-on-one situations. But we have confidence in our guys that they’ll make the plays,” Day said.

“A couple of them (catches) have been a little funky, like the one in the Notre Dame game where he (a Notre Dame receiver) kind of bobbled it and caught it and another one was kind of strange the other night. But still at the end of the day you have to do your job and make sure your man doesn’t catch the football.”

Night games: Saturday’s game will be the third night game Ohio State has played in four weeks.

Day said he sees advantages to early games and night games.

“It’s been good for recruiting,” he said about three night games. “Those are long days. I do like when a noon game is done at about 4:30 and you can go home and enjoy the rest of the day. “The electricity of the Horseshoe for a night game, there’s nothing like it. That’s the give and take of it, I guess.”

Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414.

Jim Naveau has covered local and high school sports for The Lima News since 1978 and Ohio State football since 1992. His OSU coverage appears in more than 30 newspapers. Naveau, a Miami University graduate, also worked at the Greenville Advocate and the Piqua Daily Call. He has seen every boys state basketball tournament since 1977. Reach him at [email protected] or 567-242-0414.