Every year, new Buckeyes emerge and climb the depth charts of the Ohio State offense and defense.
It is a necessary progression which then allows the program to replace departed stars and reestablish any loss of depth.
This year on the OSU defense, nine starters return from last season, which makes climbing the depth chart quite a bit more difficult for the younger players.
Regardless, there are some young players still making strides and providing competition at all three levels of the Buckeye defense.
Teradja Mitchell, Soph. MLB
Teradja Mitchell didn’t get to see much defense last year running with the threes as a true freshman. This spring, he has seen some time with the ones and twos due to injuries to Tuf Borland and Baron Browning. He would have seen time with the ones and twos regardless, but he has taken advantage of his situation. With Browning back now, Mitchell is still getting a significant amount of reps with the twos. Ryan Day said on Friday that the competition at middle linebacker will go into fall camp.
Dallas Gant, Soph. WLB
Dallas Gant enrolled early last year and soon earned some praise for his ability to learn quickly and work full speed. He played here and there last year, mostly on special teams, but also spent time at the Sam. With the defensive scheme change this year, Gant has moved inside to the Will and earned raves from his coaches for his ability to knock people down. He has senior Malik Harrison in front of him, but the two best inside linebackers will play, and if that’s Gant and Harrison, they’ll get it figured out.
Zach Harrison, Fr. DE
I have said people need to relax their expectations for Zach Harrison this season because of how raw he is, and I still believe that is true, but it’s difficult to ignore the fact that despite his inexperience he is already making plays in practice. He also keeps getting bigger. As someone said to me on Friday, Harrison is like a puppy because each time you see him he’s bigger than the last time. With sophomore defensive end Tyler Friday out on Friday, Harrison was with the ones in the Rushmen package. He also spent some time with the ones and twos during scrimmaging and came away with three sacks. He was also 4-1 in his one-on-ones earlier in practice. Defensive end is a deep position at Ohio State, but I may be changing my tune on just how relaxed your expectations for Harrison this season should be.
Javontae Jean-Baptiste, rFr. DE
You know how fast redshirt freshman H-back Jaelen Gill is. And even if you don’t, he’s an Ohio State H-back, so you have some kind of idea. You also know how fast redshirt freshman running back Master Teague is. And if you don’t, he was hand-timed at 4.31 at both an Alabama camp and an Ohio State camp. No, he’s not going to run that electronically, but I just wanted you to know that he’s a fast guy because I watched Javontae Jean-Baptiste track him down along the line of scrimmage to keep him from getting to the corner. Jean-Baptiste did the same thing on a speed sweep to Gill. He also had a sack in the scrimmage. Jean-Baptiste had to get stronger last year, but it appears he still has his burst and athleticism. His reach is also impressive. The Buckeyes seem set at defensive end, but Javontae Jean-Baptiste is putting his name out there as a guy who would be okay on the field now and then.
Shaun Wade, rSoph. DB
Technically, Shaun Wade isn’t necessarily moving up the depth charts. He is still essentially where he was last year, but the fact that he is still where he was a year ago is significant. Last season, Wade played corner, safety, and nickel. He settled in as the Buckeyes’ No. 1 nickel and ended up leading the team with three interceptions. This spring, OSU’s new defensive staff sees Wade’s versatility as a definite plus, and their ability to use him anywhere in the secondary makes him a very valuable piece of the Buckeyes’ defensive puzzle. He is currently with the ones at strong safety, but also plays nickel and still drills with the corners. Shaun Wade’s name is going to be called a lot this season.
Tommy Togiai, Soph. NT
How many third-string nose tackles get talked about as much as much as Tommy Togiai? He played behind fourth-year juniors Robert Landers and Davon Hamilton last season, and will do so once again this year. Landers has been out this spring, however, which has allowed Togiai to get a good number of snaps with the ones. He continues to hold his own, which is easy for him considering he’s the strongest Buckeye on the roster. Togiai is playing very well this spring and proving to be trouble as a pass rusher as well. He may be listed third on the depth chart this season, but don’t be surprised when he’s playing almost as many snaps as Landers and Hamilton when the season is over.