COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The wait is almost over. The season is finally creeping up again, and the annual release of preseason watch lists for the biggest awards in college football confirms it -- and helps provide a useful distraction during the final month leading up to the start of training camp. BuckeyeNation will be tracking all the Ohio State players being tracked by the various committees and will be handicapping their odds of bringing a few trophies back to campus along the way.
JOHN MACKEY AWARD
What: The nation's top tight end
On the list: Ohio State junior Jeff Heuerman
Credentials: The position didn't get quite as much work in the passing game last fall as expected, but the load figures to increase significantly now that Urban Meyer has had a year to watch Heuerman develop and find the best way to get him involved in the offense. His physical attributes rank among the best on the team in terms of reps on the bench press and vertical leap, which makes him a potential nightmare for defenders. He's already a load with a frame of 6-foot-6, 250 pounds and more mobility than anybody that size should have. Heuerman's role was more as a blocker during the unbeaten season a year ago, and he finished with just eight catches for 94 yards and a touchdown -- actually losing a head-to-head statistical battle with fellow tight end Nick Vannett in both receptions and yardage. Bigger things should be in store for both of them this season as the offense evolves to take advantage of the unique set of skills they each bring to the field.
Head to head: Showcase opportunities against other tight ends currently being watched by the committee -- Ted Bolser (Indiana), Kyle Carter (Penn State), C.J. Fiedorowicz (Iowa), Devin Funchess (Michigan), Gabe Holmes (Purdue), Jacob Pedersen (Wisconsin),
Odds: Just because Vannett isn't among the candidates on the initial watch list doesn't mean he can't contend for the honor along with Heuerman. But the fact that both tight ends are expected to have more significant roles in the offense this fall will probably harm their individual chances of winning a major award. That personal loss, though, would be a team gain for the Buckeyes.