Jashon Cornell came to Ohio State as a defensive end, but quickly grew into a defensive tackle. He spent his first three years on the interior before being asked to move back outside to defensive end a year ago. This winter, he was moved back home to defensive tackle, but injuries to three of OSU’s top four defensive ends over the last few weeks forced Cornell back to defensive end last week against Florida Atlantic.
How did he do against the Owls in his emergency replacement duty?
He ended up with a career high in tackles (4), tackles for loss (2), sacks (1), and forced fumbles (1).
Cornell was chasing the ball wherever it went, getting to it more times than he ever had in his career.
After the game, one of the best defensive ends in college football was certainly impressed, but he was far from surprised.
“Jashon definitely played really well. I’m very proud of him. We always knew Jashon had that in him,” said Chase Young. “I feel like he’s always had D-end in him. He made the move to 3-tech, but my thing, I feel like once you play something you can always play it once you get the rust off. He did what he had to do.”
Just based off of the numbers, this was Cornell’s most productive game as a Buckeye. After watching the film, he was graded out as a Champion. Defensive line coach Larry Johnson believes it was his best game at Ohio State.
“I think it was. I think he did some things that really showed his ability,” Johnson said. “You saw him run down a jet screen. That’s tough to do. And then you saw his pass-rushing ability, knocking the ball out on a sack fumble. So I think he is in a really good moment right now. But he’s had a great camp, so I’m not surprised. A fifth-year player. He finally gets it. He understands it and so we’re looking for great things from him.”
Cornell wasn’t yet a serious candidate to move back to defensive end when starting defensive end Jonathon Cooper went down with a leg injury in camp. But when sophomore defensive ends Tyreke Smith and Tyler Friday were both hampered as well, Johnson decided to make the move.
“We thought about it for a little bit, if we were going to move him or not,” he said. “The first thought was not to move him because he’d played so well at the three-tech position. But we felt going into the game the first time, we didn’t want a freshman to start at that position because they’re a running team, so we had a conversation with Jashon. Jashon’s a team player and he didn’t blink an eye. And I said, ‘Here’s the things we’ll have to teach you to do.’ And I’ll tell you what, he did a great job for us. He really did.”
Ohio State will release an availability list on Friday and more will be known about Smith and Friday at that point. Last week, they were game-time decisions, and both players dressed and warmed up. On Tuesday, Johnson wasn’t sure if Friday or Smith would be available this week because they had yet to have practice.
Behind those two are redshirt freshman Javontae Jean-Baptiste and true freshman Zach Harrison. While the ceiling is high for both players, Johnson didn’t want to put them out there in the starting lineup in game one.
The defensive end situation notwithstanding, the plan is for Cornell to move back inside because of how effective he was in camp.
“I prefer him back at the three-technique position because my philosophy, our three-technique has to be a great pass rusher,” Johnson said. “Jashon brings a different level at that position. So we’re going to move him back and continue to go forward.”
Johnson doesn’t want to ask too much from his freshmen, but they now have a little bit of experience under their respective belts, and even with the status of Tyler Friday and Tyreke Smith up in the air, the plan this week is for Jashon Cornell to be back at defensive tackle.
“That’s what our plan is, to try and get him back to three-technique,” Johnson said. “We may move him again. So who knows.”