There was a point early on Jashon Cornell’s high school career when he was ESPN’s No. 1 player in the 2015 class overall.
As he grew, however, there were questions about whether he would be a defensive end or defensive tackle in college.
Cornell enrolled early at Ohio State and so the quest for his ultimate position began immediately, but his versatility wouldn’t lock him into one position for his entire career.
He redshirted as a true freshman and then spent the two years after that as a defensive tackle. In 2018, however, he was needed at defensive end, so that’s where he played. He moved back to defensive tackle last season, but still started the first game of the year at defensive end due to injuries.
As a three technique defensive tackle, Cornell brought quickness and the ability to penetrate. In his final season with the Buckeyes, he posted 30 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, and four sacks.
In replacing him, defensive line coach Larry Johnson will be looking for somebody who can rush the passer while not giving up the necessary run-stopping skills a Big Ten defense needs.
Considering the amount of names the Buckeyes have had on the defensive line over the last few years, there doesn’t appear to be a ton of depth here at the moment.
In fact, if nothing changes, there may only be three defensive tackles at this spot.
Haskell Garrett was Cornell’s backup last year as a junior and began to blossom as an interior defender. Now a senior, the Buckeyes need him to step up just as Cornell did.
One of the players battling Cornell back in the spring a year ago was Taron Vincent. Vincent had some impressive moments towards the end of his true freshman season in 2018, which had people thinking he could win the job in 2019. An injury kept him out all season, however, and now he enters 2020 as a redshirt sophomore who is looking to reestablish himself.
Redshirt freshman Jaden McKenzie played in a couple of games last year and is probably best suited for the three tech rather than nose tackle. Of course, those positions can fluctuate as things shake out. For instance, maybe Jerron Cage gets a look at three tech after being a back up at nose tackle.
Could a defensive end move over, like freshman Darrion Henry-Young? Classmate Jacolbe Cowan has said he’s only been mentioned as a defensive end, as well as a possible interior pass rusher on throwing downs. Larry Johnson will want more than two guys he can rely on, but at least the two he has at the top should be pretty good this year.
Providing Taron Vincent is healthy this spring, he and Haskell Garrett should be manning the top two spots. Having Tommy Togiai at nose tackle next to them should help a great deal.
The biggest question will be who shows up behind them and how well do they play? Jaden McKenzie dealt with some injuries last year as well and is excited about being in the mix this spring. Will those three be enough? It wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see the position fluctuate with Jerron Cage or Antwuan Jackson, though it’s not like the Buckeyes are overly deep at nose tackle this year either.
The Best Bets
There isn’t usually much of a role for a third guy at three tech, especially if the defensive tackles are leaving the field when the Rushmen Package takes the field. Garrett and Vincent should be more than capable of handling things this season, but if one of them gets injured, expect to see some kind of shuffling along the defensive line.
Defensive tackles don’t normally get a ton of attention when it comes to All-Big Ten accolades, but both Vincent and Garrett should be two of the best defensive tackles in the conference. To be honest, they should be the two best based on their respective recruiting rankings and experience.