Football

Spring’s Unanswered Questions for the Ohio State Defensive Tackles

Haskell Garrett, Larry Johnson Ohio State Football Buckeyes

Every year following Ohio State spring football we recap what happened position by position.

Who stepped up, who stepped back, what got fixed, and what didn’t?

With 12 of the 15 spring practices cancelled due to the pandemic, however, essentially nothing happened, nothing got fixed, nobody stepped up, and no questions got answered.

So since we can’t talk about which questions got answered, we will instead discuss which questions still remain.

Position by position.

We have already discussed the quarterbacks, the specialists, the cornerbacks, the receivers, the defensive ends, the running backs, the linebackers, and now we tackle the defensive tackles.

Is Taron Vincent ready after a year off?

Taron Vincent was the No. 1 defensive tackle in the 2018 recruiting class. He played a bit as a freshman, gaining more time as the year went on, even notching a sack in the Big Ten Championship Game against Northwestern.

He entered spring ball in 2019 battling with Jashon Cornell for a starting job, but never got to act on that battle because he was injured prior to the season ever getting underway. He missed the entire year, and entered this past spring with question marks about his health, as well as his overall growth as a player.

Those questions now remain without a spring camp to answer them. The Buckeyes are not as deep as they have been at defensive tackle, so not having the opportunity to make everybody a little better is a blow.

Can Tommy Togiai replace DaVon Hamilton and Robert Landers?

Tommy Togiai has been part of a very formidable three-headed monster at nose tackle for the Buckeyes since he arrived in 2018.

Teaming along with DaVon Hamilton and Robert Landers, Ohio State essentially had a perpetual motion machine in the middle.

Last year, Togiai played in every game last season, tallying 16 tackles and two tackles for loss. One of those TFLs occurred in the Big Ten title game against Wisconsin.

Togiai is one of the two strongest players on the team, which will no doubt come in handy when football starts up again. But not getting the opportunity to rep with the ones throughout 15 spring practices is going to slow down Togiai’s progress. It won’t stop it, and it won’t be devastating, but it would have certainly helped.

Togiai has played in 26 games in his career, so he will be more experienced than most new starters. But it would have been nice to see him hit the playing field in 2020 with a spring and fall camp under his belt as the top guy at nose tackle.

Will other players step up?

Ohio State hasn’t been this thin at defensive tackle — at least in numbers — in several years. There are just six defensive tackles who have played, and seven total on scholarship. There is also the likelihood that there were none signed in the 2020 recruiting class.

The Buckeyes signed three defensive linemen in the 2020 class, and all three were considered ‘tweeners. Two of the three — Darrion Henry-Young and Jacolbe Cowan — enrolled early. They were also the two OSU defensive line signees listed as defensive tackles by the recruiting services. After seeing them on the field in one of the first practices last month, however, both were relatively skinny and the possibility of being a defensive tackle seems a year or two away.

But the larger question — literally and figuratively — is what can the Buckeyes get out of the returning players like Antwuan Jackson, Jerron Cage, Jaden McKenzie, and Cormontae Hamilton.

Jackson played over 200 snaps last year, but needs to become an impact player. Cage is in his fourth year now and has five total tackles to show for it. McKenzie redshirted as a true freshman, as did Hamilton. The only different is Hamilton was a tight end last year.

All four of these guys could have used the spring to establish themselves as rotation members. Hamilton is the most unfortunate among the defensive tackles, having just three practices to his name as a defender.

3 Responses

  1. Last year Hamilton’s emergence was just great. We got some of our best interior DL play in years. That said, because we lost chase we actually need that interior play to be even better in 2020! And the personnel may be there for that needed improvement…it really depends on Jackson and Vincent. Are they going to be busts or will they realize their potential. I think we know what we will get from Togai and Garrett. But for this interior to become special Jackson and Vincent must emerge… their time is now if its ever to happen.

  2. Pretty sure that last year we played Wisconsin in the Big Ten CG, not Northwestern.

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