Dre’Mont Jones was a three-year starter at defensive tackle for Ohio State, bursting on the scene in 2016 as a redshirt freshman in place of starter Tracy Sprinkle, who suffered a season-ending injury in the first game of the year.
Jones’ 44 tackles in conference play in 2016 was fourth-highest on the team. It was one more tackle than Michigan linebacker Jabrill Peppers, who was the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year.
Jones went from 52 tackles in 2016 to just 20 in 2017 as offenses were quite a bit better prepared for him. He was still named a Third-Team All-Big Ten selection. He weighed his options following his redshirt sophomore season, but decided to return for a fourth year.
As a fourth-year junior, Jones earned First-Team All-B1G accolades. He finished with 43 tackles, 13.0 tackles for loss, and 8.5 sacks. Jones also scored two touchdowns.
And now the Buckeyes will not only have to replace his impact on the defensive line, but they will apparently also have to replace his 0.9 points per game as well.
Last season, Dre’Mont Jones was backed up by sophomore Haskell Garrett and freshman Taron Vincent at the three-technique defensive tackle position. Garrett and Vince are the top two candidates to replace Jones in the starting lineup.
Garrett played in every game for the Buckeyes last season, recording seven tackles. Vincent played in 10 games, garnering three tackles.
Defensive line coach Larry Johnson has said in the past that rising sophomore Tommy Togiai and fourth-year junior Antwuan Jackson could play either nose tackle or three technique. Togiai had a productive freshman season in 2018, playing in 12 games and notching 10 tackles with two tackles for loss. Jackson played in just four games last season, finishing with one tackle.
Fifth-year senior Jashon Cornell could also be utilized here, just as he was back in 2017. He played in every game last season at defensive end, picking up 15 tackles, two tackles for loss, and a sack.
True freshman Jaden McKenzie will be interesting to watch, but don’t expect him to make a play for the starting lineup just yet.
Garrett and Vincent will have an entertaining competition as they both vie to replace Dre’Mont Jones. Neither player is exactly a veteran at this point, but they are both going to need to step up and prove they can handle the role.
Larry Johnson will likely also give a look to Togiai and Jackson. The nose tackle position is deep with Robert Landers and Davon Hamilton, so this may be a way to get Togiai on the field a little more. Jackson had a rough first year at OSU in 2018, but now he is a year more comfortable and perhaps that will show in the spring.
The two guys behind Dre’Mont Jones last year will likely be the guys at the top of the heap this season. And while Haskell Garrett and Taron Vincent will compete throughout the spring and summer, there should be a rotation here just like there is at nose tackle.
Both Vincent and Garrett were blue-chip recruits, with Vincent being the top defensive tackle in the 2018 class, while Garrett was the No. 6 defensive tackle in the 2017 class. Now is their time to be Nos. 1a and 1b for the Buckeyes.
(But also keep an eye on Tommy Togiai.)