COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Ohio State returns what is perhaps the most talented and deep defensive line in the country. Leading that group is graduate Haskell Garrett who opted to return to Columbus despite a top-two round NFL draft projection.
“I really came back for the brotherhood,” Garrett said. “I felt like there’s more I can do as a leader and I didn’t want to leave the guys yet.”
Garrett isn’t the only returning player with considerable game experience. OSU is stacked at defensive end with seniors Tyreke Smith and Javontae Jean-Baptiste as well as Olentangy Orange grad Zach Harrison who returns for his junior year. All three are primed for their best season yet.
“We can be the best in the country. We’ve got so much talent on the d-line,” Smith said.
Ohio State ended the 2020 season with the highest-rated defensive line out of all the teams in the power five conferences, per Pro Football Focus. That line should remain just as dominant despite losing Tommy Togiai and Gahanna native Jonathon Cooper to the NFL. The talent pool on OSU’s defensive line is deep and that includes two of the best incoming freshman from the class of 2021.
Pickerington North grad Jack Sawyer has been with the Buckeyes since the spring, impressing position coach Larry Johnson who has developed some of the best linemen currently in the NFL, including Chase Young, Nick Bosa, Joey Bosa and Sam Hubbard.
Sawyer was ranked as the sixth-best player in 2021 while his teammate, J.T. Tuimoloau, was ranked No. 2 behind only OSU quarterback Quinn Ewers who just arrived on campus Monday after opting to skip his senior year of high school.
Tuimoloau committed to the Buckeyes on July 4 and is the highest-rated defensive commit in school history. Despite only practicing two weeks at OSU, Tuimoloau has already had his black stripe removed and is making a push to get playing time this season.
“My push is to get the young players ready as quick as possible cause you never know when they’re going to be in the game,” Johnson said.
Junior defensive tackle Taron Vincent says he has confidence the younger players can get the job done if their number is called.
“All the freshman, they can go man,” Vincent said. “They’re coming in and getting right to it. Yeah all them guys work hard. Tyleik [Williams], Mike [Hall], J.T., Jack, everybody. All the young guys are really good.”
Although the freshman have garnered plenty of well-deserved attention, fans shouldn’t overlook the other returning Buckeyes like Vincent and Jerron Cage.
Both Buckeyes haven’t seen much playing time for different reasons. Vincent is finally healthy after battling injuries for the majority of the past two seasons and says he’s feeling better than ever.
“I feel it. I feel like I’m there. I feel like I’m at that point. I like the way I’m playing football, I like how my body feels, I like how my mind is, so I feel real confident in myself right now,” he said.
Meanwhile, Cage is getting his opportunity after waiting for years behind talented players like Togiai, Garrett, Jashon Cornell and DaVon Hamilton.
Other Buckeyes to keep an eye on include grad DT Antwuan Jackson, sophomore DE Noah Potter, freshman DT Tyleik Williams, sophomore DT Jaden McKenzie and freshman DT Ty Hamilton.