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TE Coach Mike Pope on Jake Ballard

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Q: How has Jake Ballard played?A: The surprise really has been his ability to contribute in the passing game and catching the ball. Somehow he just gets open and we watch him a little bit at how he runs at 15 yards and 10 yards and he is running with the receiver. He has been very good to work with and he is football smart because his dad was a coach. He has been around football all his life. He has just taken basketball skills and applied them. He has a good ways to grow and hopefully he will continue to get better. He has been so contributory to our offense because he has done such a good job running after the catch. A lot of tight ends catch five balls for 31 yards because they are catching all those short routes but that's where he has helped us some. He has been able to break a few tackles and dodge a couple people.

Q: Have you spoken to him about how much attention he is going to start getting from defenses?A: Absolutely. We already started talking about some things and as you do start to become a problem for a defense then they will put you in their defensive plan. We have already talked about some ways to try to get ahead on that.

Q: Is he a reverse of what you had with Kevin?A: Almost exactly a reverse. We knew Kevin was very athletic and can run but we were concerned with how well he was able to block on the line of scrimmage. Jake is about 275 pounds and when you saw him at Ohio State, he was on the goal line and things like that. You never saw him run 30 yards down the field because they never did that with him. We brought him in as a blocker and a guy who has a real thick body. I called Jim Tressel a few weeks ago and told him you would be proud of these guys because of what they have been able to do and he said he wasn't surprised. What they were doing offensively didn't put the tight end into the passing game. They would use them as blockers more and get them to the outside because they had a very mobile quarterback and they didn't want people coming off the edge and hitting him. He played his role there and hopefully he is going to develop a pretty nice role here that will help us and he is off to a decent start.

Q: How is the spread offense hurting tight ends?A: It is eliminating them. You have to go find them because I don't know how much longer we can do that. There are very few of them. There were only two guys that we thought could help us in the past year's draft when they asked me to look at the tight ends. There were only two guys that I thought would be comfortable and we would be comfortable with them. You just have to know what you are looking for and sometimes you just get lucky and you hit on one. The thing that is impressive about him is that he has a very high test score. He reminds me a lot of Jeremy Shockey in this aspect, when he comes off the field he can tell you what everyone was doing around him on the play. He has a really good feel of what is going on around him and Jeremy was the same way. He had the great football mentality because he has the passion for it. He has a real good passion for the game. He is a lot of fun to work with.

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