Ohio State defensive end Jashon Cornell dealt with injuries for much of his first three years, and now that he is healthy, the Buckeyes need him to step up this week for a defensive line that is riddled with injuries of its own.
All-American Nick Bosa is out and junior Jonathon Cooper is questionable as he goes through concussion protocol. Defensive tackles Robert Landers and Dre’Mont Jones have been playing hurt for a couple of weeks now, and a veteran presence like Cornell’s is a necessity.
“Very intelligent guy. Great person. We need a little more out of him,” Urban Meyer said on his radio show Thursday. “He’s a guy that has talent. Obviously with some banged up players, we need him to become the player that we all want him to be and that he wants to be. I see it coming and right now’s the time.”
Cornell’s playing time has increased since Bosa’s injury, and even though it was sophomore defensive end Chase Young who got the credit for the game-winning stop against Penn State, it was Cornell who occupied an offensive linemen who was then unable to block Young, who was coming around on the stunt.
Despite all of the injuries, Cornell said the demeanor and disposition in the defensive line room hasn’t changed a bit. No one is moping and there is no “woe is me.”
“We’re still coming into the room and everybody’s happy,” he said. “It’s next guy up. If one guy is down, the next guy has to be prepared. That’s what we work for each and every day.”
There was certainly a bit of a down turn upon losing Bosa, and for good reason. But the mindset eventually takes over regardless of the player.
“It’s Nick Bosa. No one can replace Nick,” Cornell said.
“We learn in the d-line room that once one man goes down, two men have to step up and pick up the production for that one man. It doesn’t matter who that man is. When that one man goes down, two men have to step up.”
Making matters more interesting for Cornell, the Buckeyes are playing his home-state Minnesota Golden Gophers this weekend.
While he was never close to becoming a Gopher himself, he knows plenty of the players on the other side of the ball, which makes Saturday a special game for him.
“Yeah it does,” he said. “I haven’t been home in a while. It feels nice playing against them.”
Cornell could have stayed home and probably taken an easier road, but he wanted to play for OSU defensive line coach Larry Johnson.
His decision to come to Ohio State has seen the uncontrollable injuries, as well as controllable position moves. He has gone from defensive end to defensive tackle and now back to defensive end.
Now, halfway through his redshirt junior season, he may have finally found his place on this defense.
“I feel like I’ve had a lot of bumps in the road,” he admitted. “Fighting injuries and staying healthy, and that’s what’s kept me at just having an okay career so far. But I feel myself getting healthier and performing at a better level.”
A Big Challenge
Minnesota will likely be starting true freshman Daniel Faalele at right tackle on Saturday. Faalele is originally from Australia, but played high school football at IMG Academy in Florida.
Oh, and he is listed 6-foot-9 and 400 pounds.
As a defensive end, Jashon Cornell will be one of the lucky Buckeyes asked to deal with Faalele.
He said on Wednesday that he has dealt with players as big as Faalele, but when asked who, he said “Orlando Pace.”
He then backtracked off of that and said that when he was a defensive tackle, he dealt with double teams all the time.
“It’s about the same thing,” he said smiling.
Larry Johnson has instructed his linemen to use their speed and get their hands on him first. And then disengage as quickly as possible.
When asked if he’s more concerned about Faalele’s height or weight, Cornell answered quickly.
“The weight,” he said. “He’s 400 pounds. What are you gonna do with 400 pounds? I feel like if you’re 400 pounds and 6-9, you’re not going to be able to move.
“If you use your speed to get your hands on him first and then rip off, it’s hard for him to keep his balance. From what we’ve seen on film, he’s top heavy. As long as you get your hands on him before he gets his hands on you, then we’ll be good.”
The Long Road Home
No, Jashon Cornell isn’t going home this weekend, but a little bit of home is coming to him.
He will see friends on the other side of the field like fellow defensive end Carter Coughlin and wide receiver Tyler Johnson.
Cornell will also see himself in his most important role of the season.
The Buckeyes need him at his best against his hometown team, and like Urban Meyer said, “Now’s the time” for Cornell to be the player he came to Ohio State to be.