The defensive tackles may be the deepest position on the entire Ohio State football team. The Buckeyes only return one starter from last season, but they are four-deep at both tackle spots. Fourth-year junior Dre’Mont Jones is likely headed for the NFL after this season, so this is his opportunity to show The League exactly what he has this year. Robert Landers, himself a fourth-year junior, has established himself as the team’s No. 1 nose tackle, but just as importantly he has established himself as a leader. Together, the rest of the group can follow Jones and Landers and see exactly how it is supposed to be done.
67 Rob Landers, rJr
53 Davon Hamilton, rJr
51 Antwuan Jackson, rSo OR
98 Jerron Cage, rFr
86 Dre’Mont Jones, rJr
92 Haskell Garrett, So OR
72 Tommy Togiai, Fr
55 Malik Barrow, rSo
According to Urban Meyer, Dre’Mont Jones had a better spring than perhaps anybody else on the Buckeye football team. The only person happier than Meyer and defensive line coach Larry Johnson that Jones returned was defensive end Nick Bosa. Getting Jones for one last season gives the Buckeyes a playmaker in the middle that most teams do not have. The plan during the winter was to get Jones ready to be part of the plan on passing downs, and he showed all spring long that he is ready to rush the quarterback this season.
“We all complement each other all the way across the board. With us, it really helps that we came in together, we’ve been here together for the past four years, and we’ve been able to not only build a bond on the field and a connection on the field, but off of the field as well. It really does help, but at the end of the day with us, we’re going to play football, we’re going to enjoy what we’re doing together and just try to do the best we can with leading this group.” — Robert Landers on leading the DTs with Dre’Mont Jones
Freshman Tommy Togiai came to Ohio State with high expectations, but he still surprised everyone by playing well enough to have his black stripe removed. Freshmen don’t usually play well enough to lose their stripe until the fall, if even then. Togiai hit the ground running when he arrived in Columbus. He didn’t always know what he was doing, but he knew how hard he should be doing it. He only got better as the spring went on. With Jashon Cornell moving to defensive end, the Buckeyes needed young players to step up. They weren’t expecting it to be Togiai so soon, but they’re thrilled with the possibilities.
While Tommy Togiai received some deserved attention, there were four other underclass defensive tackles who are readying for their first real opportunity to play this season. Redshirt sophomore Malik Barrow was recovering from an ACL tear that he suffered last year, but he has done everything the staff wants him to, including dropping weight in preparation for the 2018 season. Junior college transfer Antwuan Jackson got to see some action late in spring as he recovered from foot surgery. He is only getting started. Sophomore Haskell Garrett played in eight games last season, but wants more this season. He was dealing with a concussion at the end of camp. Redshirt freshman Jerron Cage may be the hungriest of the bunch, having not played in a game since high school. All four players are talented and any of them could emerge as a disruptive presence for the Buckeyes this year.
Larry Johnson told me that Antwuan Jackson practiced at nose tackle this spring, but has the ability to play the three tech as well. Once Jackson is full go this summer and into fall camp, they’ll have a much better idea of what he can do. They have yet to see him on campus at full speed because he arrived with a broken foot. The good news is that they probably don’t need a lot from Jackson this season. And if they don’t get much, he has two years of eligibility to work with after this season. That doesn’t mean he’s just going to sit by and wait for his turn, however.
Fourth-year junior nose tackle Davon Hamilton may have received as many kudos as Dre’Mont Jones this season. Hamilton and Landers will provide a nice 1-2 punch, which could become a 1-2-3 punch with Antwuan Jackson or Jerron Cage. Landers said this spring that nobody made a bigger jump from last year than Hamilton, which is some very timely improvement given that the Buckeyes need to replace departed seniors Tracy Sprinkle and Michael Hill at the nose. Hamilton is also going to be pushed by younger players behind him. Knowing that push was coming may have played a part in his improvement since last season.