It’s fair to say Jacob Stoneburner was excited to get back in the end zone Saturday during Ohio State’s 31-16 victory against UCF.
Just how excited was he?
“It’s a great feeling being up here and talking to you guys again,” he told the media afterward.
Now THAT’S excited.
All kidding aside, Stoneburner’s comment underscored one truth – if it weren’t for his offseason citation for disorderly conduct, he likely would have been talking to the media a lot more during fall camp and the early days of the Ohio State season.
The fifth-year senior from Dublin (Ohio) Coffman was on the short list of those players thought to be in the running for the team’s captaincy during spring football, and his easy way with media, fans and teammates made him a natural spokesman for the team.
Of course, that went out the window in early June when Stoneburner and teammate Jack Mewhort were cited for fleeing from police after being spotted urinating on the side of a building in Shawnee Hills, Ohio, near The Bogey Bar & Grill, a popular hangout spot during that weekend’s Memorial Tournament.
Suddenly, Stoneburner went from potential team leader to firmly entrenched in head coach Urban Meyer’s doghouse along with Mewhort. The two had to pay their way during summer classes and were barred from team workouts during the offseason.
The punishment was severe for multiple reasons. Meyer expects more out of his seniors, and the situation came at an unfortunate time as the Buckeyes were in dire need of a distraction-free offseason while players worked toward honing their skills in Meyer’s new offense.
“I was very upset with him,” Meyer said, “but to say I lost my trust in him or I wouldn't say that. Extremely upset, like you would with one of your kids. But to say I don't trust Jake Stoneburner, that's not appropriate. Anger and those type of things, yes, but not lack of trust.”
That’s one reason that after Stoneburner served his penance, he and Mewhort were returned to the squad in time for the beginning of fall camp.
"It was business as usual once practice started," Stoneburner said. "We were back at football and saying let’s just worry about football.”
Still, Stoneburner said he learned his lesson after the incident.
“I learned how your actions, no matter how big or how little, affect the entire team,” he said. “It’s just a team thing. I made a mistake and everyone had to pay for it.”
With that taken care of, he undertook an interesting fall camp when it comes to his role on the team. He had worked out some with the wide receivers during spring football to provide a veteran presence in a room of youngsters, but the staff decided to make that a permanent switch during August.
Since the games began, Stoneburner has been split out as a wide receiver in the majority of sets, but he has also lined up at tight end or H-back at times and even thrown a few crucial blocks, something he said is easier now that he’s lined up more often against smaller foes.
“They have me listed as a starting wide receiver, but I play tight end and I play a little bit of fullback,” he said. “I guess they just want to use me in different ways. I’m fine with that. You just have to make sure you know a lot. I probably know three or four different positions. Sometimes when I get tired, I have some mental lapses, but other than that, I love it. The offense gives me the ability to be out there and make some plays.”
One reason the staff might be putting him in different areas is that it’s still trying to find out what Stoneburner does best. Though he has developed a reputation as a freakish combination of size, speed and agility at 6-5, 245-pounds, Stoneburner had only 37 catches for nine touchdowns in his first three seasons at OSU.
“Yeah, he's a good player,” Meyer said. “He's a guy that we are still trying to find out, exactly, does he have the separation to run a deep pass, especially as many plays as he's playing. He's a big man to be out there running 30-yard routes. He’s the best point of attack blocker we have at tight end; he does some other very good things for us.
“So I think we are still growing together. I wish I had him for more than one year because we are still trying to figure out exactly his strengths.”
On the year, Stoneburner has four catches for 48 yards, but the touchdown is one that surely stands out.
“It’s been a while,” Stoneburner said of his score. “It was a tough summer. To finally get out there and score, it’s a great feeling. It was great being in the end zone again.”