COLUMBUS, Ohio - Mere months ago, Nick Vannett was third on the Ohio State depth chart and his own head coach wouldn't even say his name. Now the redshirt freshman finds himself listed as a co-starter at tight end and on the receiving end of unsolicited praise from Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer.
"Nick Vannett is one of the most improved players," Meyer said in the midst of answering an unrelated question pertaining to his quarterbacks. "He's going to be right in the middle of this thing, and I didn't see that at all in the spring. If you noticed, I didn't even bring his name up because he really was not a very functional guy in the spring. I love giving credit where credit is due."
If you need any more proof as to how much confidence the first-year Ohio State head coach has in Vannett, look no further than his announcement that last year's starting tight end Jake Stoneburner has been moved to wide receiver. That leaves Vannett as the co-starter at the tight end spot, alongside sophomore Jeff Heuerman. And seeing as how Meyer has used his tight ends in the past, there's a great chance that both OSU tight ends will see significant playing time, regardless of who's named the starter.
After spending the 2011 season redshirting instead of playing, Vannett is excited for his new role for the upcoming season.
"I think it's going to be great. Me and Jeff are both two tight ends where we can get in there and get the job done," Vannett said. "With Jake moving to wide receiver, we're going to see a lot of sets where we're both in the same game at the same time. I think it's going to be a great passing game."
Given the history that Meyer has had with his tight ends, which has included him coaching NFL draft picks Cornelius Ingram and Aaron Hernandez at Florida, that paying time could pay huge dividends for the Westerville, Ohio native. Vannett said that he was thrilled when he heard that Meyer was hired to be the Buckeyes head coach.
"When I heard the news that he was going to be the coach, I was excited. Just the history with Aaron Hernandez and the great tight ends they had at Florida," Vannett said. "I was just excited for them coming because I know what he does with tight ends and the success they've had with tight ends."
At 6-foot-6, 248 pounds, Vannett said that his skill set is different from those of the tight ends that Meyer has coached in the past, but that doesn't mean that he can't be successful in his new coach's spread offense.
"I wouldn't put us in the same category. I'm not really the speedy guy like he is. I think I'm more of the traditional guy. I've got some good speed, I can run good routes, I've got good hands. Also, I can block," Vannett said. "Anything that Coach Meyer asks me to do, I just try to go out there and do my best."
But regardless of how the redshirt freshman stacks up to Meyer's former players, the fact that Vannett is even being put in a conversation with names like Ingram and Hernandez is amazing considering where he was after spring practice. With Heuerman only a year ahead of him, Blake Thomas arriving in the fall, and Marcus Baugh committed to the 2013 recruiting class, Vannett could have easily been on the outside looking in when it came to the future of the tight end position at Ohio State.
Instead, Vannett got his act together. And if Meyer's comments and actions are any indication, his hard work has paid off.
"After spring, I had a little trouble with the offense and trying to understand it completely," Vannett said. "This offseason I really took the time to study the playbook really hard and understand what my role would be on certain plays. I think in camp so far, it's really paid off."