Ohio State OC explains why Jets rookie Jeremy Ruckert has tools to become 'bell cow' tight end

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Jeremy Ruckert Treated Image
Jeremy Ruckert Treated Image

You almost always find a bigger smile on an NFL prospect's face when they're drafted by their hometown team. Take Lions DE Aidan Hutchinson for example, as the Plymouth, Mich. native was beaming after hearing his name called by Detroit. It hits different when you know you'll be playing in your home state, close to family and friends.

In the third round, Ohio State TE Jeremy Ruckert got that same feeling when the Jets took him. He was even wearing a green and white suit that night, surrounded by friends and family who went ballistic when he put the Jets hat on.

Ohio State tight ends coach Kevin Wilson couldn't have been happier for the Long Island native because he knows just how much his family means to him.

"He came away to Ohio State, but every time he had a chance to go home and be around his family, his brothers, his friends, his girlfriend, he took advantage of that time," Wilson told SNY during a phone interview.

If you haven't seen Ruckert's family reaction, specifically his dad freaking out while his son was still on the phone, it's a sight to see:

And Wilson has known for a while that the Ruckert family is filled with Jets fandom. The childhood photos are proof.

"I asked the parents to send me different pictures of their kids just so I could have some fun with them – I was just trying to crack some jokes with guys," Wilson recalled. "About three or four of Jeremy’s, he was in that Jet uniform, the same [pictures] that came out post-draft. I actually had those shots already. I actually fired it to Jeremy as soon as he got drafted and said 'Dreams do come true.'"

It's a moment that Ruckert and his family will never forget, but Wilson knows that his now former pupil will be ready for the challenge ahead of him.

The Jets needed help at tight end this offseason, there's no question about it. GM Joe Douglas was proactive at that position ahead of the draft, signing veterans C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin to upgrade that room. Uzomah has great catchability, having showcased that with the Cincinnati Bengals, while Conklin is a bruiser at the position with flashes in the pass game, too.

So where does Ruckert fit in? What's going to set him apart from the jump will be his blocking abilities if he's able to show it in camp. Tight ends who block will usually get time in games, whether it's on offense or special teams.

Coach Wilson thinks that should be showcased right away.

"He would probably transition to the NFL quicker than most tight ends at the draft because we taught him to get in the three-point stance and block people," he said. "Half the time, we’re playing left tackle at tight end and half the time we’re playing flex receiver. We do both.

"Shoot, he blocked Aidan Hutchinson better than our tackles did."

That was probably because Ruckert had to deal with players like Chase Young and Nick Bosa in practice during his Buckeyes career. Wilson referred to "Tuesday Practice," which his tight ends knew involved getting on the line and knocking pads with guys who are now some of the best in the NFL.

Ruckert more than held his own.

"He was our third [tight end on the depth chart] as a freshman and there was a play in practice about the fifth or sixth week, and we’re just doing an inside running period. There’s this guy making a cutoff block and he got his hands inside and kinda caught Chase Young off balance, off guard. Made a great block and finish, put him on the ground and he got up smiling," Wilson said.

But there's also Ruckert's catchability. He wasn't able to showcase those skills too much in college -- players like Terry McLaurin, Chris Olave, Jaxon Smith-Njiba and Jets teammate Garrett Wilson were the normal ones hauling in passes from the likes of Dwayne Haskins, Justin Fields, and CJ Stroud -- but when he did, he was reliable and even flashed in tough situations like this one:

"He was a very solid complete tight end. He’s got all the skills to be extremely good," Wilson said about Ruckert, who hauled in 54 career catches for 615 yards and 12 touchdowns in his four-year career.

But the Jets may be viewing this situation with Ruckert as someone who could eventually develop into their every-down guy. Uzomah and Conklin are both on new three-year contracts, so Ruckert will definitely have the time to develop his way through Mike LaFleur's system.

Wilson knows he'll do whatever it takes, even if that means he's not the immediate No. 1 in the room. It's something he already went through at OSU.

“He’s always embraced the process and being a team guy," Wilson said. "He’s a very good learner, very quick learner. He can take video, he can take chalkboard, he can take a meeting and take it to walk-through, take it to the field. So I think he processes well. I think he’s a guy that understands mental reps and how to pay attention when you’re not going.”

But Wilson made sure to add that Ruckert isn't someone who's just going to sit around and wait his turn.

“My exact words to almost every scout was he walks in your building day one, he’s your third tight end. As the year moves along, he’s probably your second tight end and a year or two from now, you can figure out if he’s your bell cow guy," he said, praising his ability to learn quickly and bring it to the field.

Work still needs to be done to refine Ruckert's game, but Wilson is confident the hometown kid will do whatever it takes to make sure he impacts his childhood team now and in the future.

There might be some sacrifice at first, but learning behind Uzomah, Conklin and the coaching staff will only make Ruckert hungrier to prove himself while keeping the team's success in mind.

"He’s a very highly-talented guy and came in on a highly-talented team and made a lot of sacrifices to be not only a good player, but a great teammate and a great leader. Just keep being that guy," Wilson said.