The first time Buckeye fans got to see Jack Sawyer on a football field, he was wreaking havoc in the 2021 spring game as a true freshman defensive end.
Spring game performances at Ohio State can sometimes create an inauspicious lore, however. At the very least for Sawyer, his three sacks as a true freshman in OSU’s annual spring scrimmage certainly got the expectation train rolling.
Coincidentally, Sawyer finished his true freshman season with three sacks as well. He tied for the team lead among defensive ends with Zach Harrison and Tyreke Smith. Sawyer posted his numbers despite playing a fraction of the snaps of Harrison and Smith, but he was fortunate enough to be playing mostly in blowouts where defending the run wasn’t as much of a consideration.
Sawyer played the fifth-most snaps among Ohio State’s defensive ends last year, and even if those snaps didn’t always come while games were in doubt, he still learned plenty.
“The most important thing I learned first year is probably to just stay consistent. The first year kind of goes like this a lot,” Sawyer said this spring while making an up-and-down motion with his hand. “But then once you find it, it clicks. I think for me it kind of clicked halfway through the season. That’s when I really turned it on. I just felt it, you know? And just bringing it every day, too, kind of wears on you. It’s a grind. It’s the longest season I’ve ever had in my life playing football. Just every day you’re here for at least four hours doing stuff and it was kind of it was kind of a lot for a lot of us younger guys at first, but then once you find a routine then you got to stick with it and I think that that can help everybody.”
It was a lot of football for Sawyer, who opted out of his senior season of high school when things were still quite up in the air because of COVID. There were lessons upon lessons for him from the first day he arrived and they have continued to the present day.
Sawyer has an understanding of his role and his responsibilities and got enough of a taste of playing time last year that he wants more. He’s a different player than he was a year ago. He’s smarter, more experienced, stronger, and more explosive. He’s also bigger. When Sawyer first arrived at Ohio State, he was pushing 230 pounds. Now he’s doing the pushing at 265 pounds.
All of this has made him much better equipped to handle the task at hand, and he knows it.
“I think I can take a huge jump this year,” he said. “I plan on it. I just think last year, I was a little inconsistent earlier in the year and kind of let it affect my play a little bit. And like I said, I feel like halfway through the year I kind of turned it on pretty well and started progressing at a high level. I’m just looking forward to this year to get a chance to go out there and show it.”
Sawyer was a five-star recruit in high school and one of the top defensive end recruits in the 2021 class. That kind of background brings lofty expectations, especially for a player from Central Ohio who was on Ohio State’s radar for years. After showing glimpses as a true freshman, Sawyer is ready to give people the entire performance this year.
With increased opportunities as a sophomore, Sawyer could certainly eyeball some accolades or individual goals, but when asked about his personal targets as a player, he instead talked about more important goals.
“I just want to win a title really bad. I just want to win,” he said. “So that’s kind of the stage I’m at in my life right now and in my career. Here, we’re all just so invested in each other that it’s hard to talk about yourself because the team is always the most important. So I’m just focused on obviously being the best player I can be. If I do that, then that stuff will take care of itself. But the emphasis is on the team. We’re trying to do something big here. We’re not trying to go 11-2 like we did last year. I’m just so focused on winning.”