At one point in his high school career, Jashon Cornell was the No. 1 prospect in ESPN’s recruiting rankings. A dynamic disruptor at defensive end, the St. Paul, Minnesota native came to Ohio State to play on the outside.
Instead, Cornell eventually ended up at defensive tackle.
It was a surprise to him at the time, but he also looked at the depth on the defensive line and realized that his best chances to play early were on the inside.
“It was a surprise,” he said, “But I had a feeling that once Adolphus [Washington] left, if I really wanted to get on the field those two years, I would have to transition and move to defensive tackle.”
Cornell’s first three years as a Buckeye have been spent redshirting as a freshman, and then playing here and there in his second and third seasons on campus. Injuries and a loaded depth chart have held him back some to this point, but that depth chart has thinned a bit since last season and now Cornell sees a golden opportunity for himself in 2018.
With defensive ends Jalyn Holmes, Sam Hubbard, and Tyquan Lewis all leaving for the NFL after last season, Cornell set about getting his weight down in order to be a viable option for the Buckeyes once again at defensive end.
“It’s a change, but it’s the position I’ve played my whole life,” Cornell said. “I’m easing back into getting ready for it. It’s a transition from defensive tackle, but each day as we come out here I’m learning something new and improving at defensive end.”
Down 15 pounds from last season, Cornell is lighter, quicker, and as healthy as he’s been as a Buckeye. While this can be seen as an opportunity for him, it is also a sacrifice. He is moving from the only position he has known in college to one he hasn’t played since high school.
“It’s a need right now where we’re needing a defensive end,” he said. “I’m willing to sacrifice myself for the team. I feel like playing defensive end is my natural position and I think I’m ready to go back to it.”
And what will he bring to the position this season?
“I’m bringing aggression and aggressive effort every time,” he said. “That’s what I’m here for as a defensive end. I’m pretty much the punisher. Beat up the tight ends and beat up the offensive tackles.”
The Buckeyes have only had two practices, so Cornell hasn’t been able to show much at his new position. What he has shown as a defensive linemen in his first three seasons, however, has his teammates convinced he will be just fine outside.
“He’s going to help us out,” said junior All-American Nick Bosa. “He has a really good chance to play a lot because the depth is not like it was last year. He’s really fast and he’s really explosive. People don’t realize that because he’s bigger, but he’s probably got some of the best explosion and twitch of anybody on our D-line. He’s obviously got to get used to being pushed out, but once he gets used to it I think he could be impactful this year.”
Bosa’s position coach Larry Johnson agrees wholeheartedly.
“He’s going to add a lot because he’s going to give us more depth,” Johnson said. “Instead of counting on a freshman coming in and getting ready to play early, we’ve got a veteran player who has been here and knows the system and can give us immediate help in the first and second-down package that we’re looking at. That’s what we’re trying to do with him and teach him that.”
Now that Jashon Cornell is entering his fourth year on campus as a Buckeye, the time for waiting has to end. So far, the reviews have been positive, and the time for patience is over.
“Coach Meyer was just talking about it today, it’s not about being patient anymore,” Cornell said. “It’s about ‘You’re up. It’s your time. You’re here to play.’ That’s what they say for the new freshmen coming in. You’re not here to wait your turn. You have to get on the field right away. Over the past two years, I know I’ve been waiting and waiting, but my opportunity is now and I have to take it.”