Every year following Ohio State spring football we recap what happened position by position.
Who stepped up, who stepped back, what got fixed, and what didn’t?
With 12 of the 15 spring practices cancelled due to the pandemic, however, essentially nothing happened, nothing got fixed, nobody stepped up, and no questions got answered.
So since we can’t talk about which questions got answered, we will instead discuss which questions still remain.
Position by position.
Is Zach Harrison ready for the next step?
Zach Harrison has been seen as one of the next great Ohio State defensive ends even back when he was still trying to decide if he wanted to be a Buckeye, a Wolverine, or a Nittany Lion. As a freshman, Harrison played in every game and finished with 24 tackles, 5.0 tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks. Those numbers are right in line with Chase Young and Nick Bosa as freshmen.
Without a spring camp, however, Harrison will miss out on a crucial part of his development that neither Young or Bosa had to miss. How far back will this set Harrison’s development? He is expected to be one of the stars for the Buckeye defense this season, and fortunately for Ohio State, he has not once failed to meet an expectation in his time on campus.
Who is the next man up?
You know, not everybody has to be the next Bosa or Chase Young. The next Sam Hubbard or next Tyquan Lewis would be just fine. Let’s not forget, Lewis was named the Big Ten’s Defensive Lineman of the Year not so long ago. And Hubbard has more sacks (14.5) in the NFL as a third-round pick than anybody else from his 2018 NFL Draft class, including first-round defensive ends Bradley Chubb (13.0) and Marcus Davenport (10.5).
Juniors Tyreke Smith and Tyler Friday have both earned comparisons to Tyquan Lewis from defensive line coach Larry Johnson. They have both had their moments, but injuries have been as much a part of their story as production. Redshirt sophomore Javontae Jean-Baptiste has had to undergo a transformation, just as Hubbard did when he got to Ohio State.
Jean-Baptiste was very impressive in the spring of 2019, so it’s unfortunate we didn’t get to see him a year later. Even though the quarterbacks are off limits, defensive ends still stand out with how quickly they get into the backfield.
Senior linebacker Baron Browning could be one to watch as well as a situational pass rusher. He was excited about his opportunity this spring, but that will have to wait for the next camp.
Is Jonathon Cooper a dominator?
Jonathon Cooper has played in 38 games in his four seasons as a Buckeye, including his injury-shortened four games last season. Cooper chose to take a redshirt last season, but saved his fourth-and-final game for Michigan, where he notched a sack of quarterback Shea Patterson.
That was one of just 6.5 career sacks for Cooper in his 38 games. Like it or not, defensive ends are judged by the number of times they get to the quarterback in the backfield and Cooper knows he’s fallen short of his original plans. This season is supposed to be where he is at his best.
We already know he’s a great leader and that would have been on display throughout the spring. The bigger question is what kind of a pain would he be for an offense, and we just don’t know yet.