Fall camp got underway for the Buckeyes this past Friday and every single Ohio State position coach has a mental list of things that they need to get done.
In fact, they may actually have a physical list as well.
Speculating as to what might be on each assistant coach’s list is always a fun exercise, and there are no shortages of items that will need to be addressed.
Up today is defensive line coach Larry Johnson, who is the lone holdover from Urban Meyer’s defensive staff.
Three starters return from a defensive line that gave up way too many yards last season. Losing Nick Bosa was a blow that the defense never totally recovered from.
They should be recovered by now.
Or at least better able to mask it.
You can be assured that if Larry Johnson did have a list of things to work on in camp, figuring out how to keep last year from happening again would probably be the overarching goal of the list as a whole.
Like the list you’ll see below.
1. Do the math on three starting nose tackles.
This isn’t so much a problem or a situation that camp will fix or answer, but rather a math problem that Larry Johnson will have to solve by the end of camp. Sophomore nose tackle Tommy Togiai didn’t quite crack the rotation at nose tackle last year, but he still played. This camp, even with Robert Landers and Davon Hamilton both being fifth-year seniors, it would not be a surprise to see Togiai work his way into the rotation. If he does, then that means Johnson is going to have to figure out how to rotate three nose tackles in a defense that doesn’t usually have a defensive tackle on the field on passing downs. One thing we know for sure, the nose tackles should never be tired this season.
2. Get Jonathon Cooper where he wants to be.
Jonathon Cooper will tell you himself that he has unfinished business to tend to this season. He knows and remembers the hype that he can in with. He watched for two years while Nick Bosa, Jalyn Holmes, Sam Hubbard, and Tyquan Lewis showed everyone how it was done. Last year, his first as a starter, it was his turn to do the same. While he did lead, he didn’t produce the way he wanted. Larry Johnson knows they whys and they have worked over the offseason to fix the issues. This is Cooper’s last season as a Buckeye and he wants to be remembered like they guys who were here before him. Johnson wants the exact same thing from him as well.
3. Continue to push Chase Young into leadership.
We have already seen clips of Chase Young in camp in a leadership role, which is impressive given the fact that there are four seniors on the defensive line and he’s not one of them. When your best players are you best leaders, teams go farther. Young is embracing his role as a vocal leader, but there’s no reason why Larry Johnson can’t push him even more. When things get tough during camp — and they will — Johnson will need his best player to show everyone how to push through and overcome. Chase Young proved his toughness last season playing injured, and now he’ll need to put that same willpower on display all month long.
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4. Find Dre’Mont Jones’ replacement.
This is probably the most serious thing on the To Do list. Fifth-year senior Jashon Cornell and sophomore Taron Vincent were the two guys competing with the ones in the spring, and they’ll no doubt continue their battle this month. Maybe Tommy Togiai or Haskell Garrett or somebody else can get in the mix as well. Finding a replacement and replacing Dre’Mont Jones are two different things, however. They can replace him with anybody, but Larry Johnson needs to put somebody in there who can make a similar impact. As with all things on the Ohio State defensive line, it won’t be just one guy, which means he’ll have to get several guys ready. The most disruptive among them will play, but it is going to be difficult for anybody to match what Jones has given the Buckeyes over the past three seasons.
5. Get the Rushmen back.
When Nick Bosa went down last year, so did the depth at defensive end. Any hope for a deep rotation was gone, as was the hope for a dynamic third-down pass rush. But now, the freshmen who were called upon last season are sophomores. When Tyreke Smith was playing on the inside in the Rushmen package last year, he was trying to stay above water. This year, he may be just shy of walking on it. Tyler Friday played early last season, he needs to show this month how much that time helped him. Larry Johnson will let these defensive ends know that there is playing time available, even if it’s a freshman like Zach Harrison, Noah Potter, Javontae Jean-Baptiste, or Alex Williams, and he’s going to do everything he can to fill up their respective tool boxes. If he can just find four defensive ends who are good enough to start, then he’s got his four horsemen of the Rushmen package as well.