Every day until fall camp begins for Ohio State, we will profile a different Buckeye football player. Today that player is fourth-year junior defensive end Javontae Jean-Baptiste. Yesterday it was cornerback Cameron Brown. You can find all of the daily Scoop Profiles right here.
No. 8 | Defensive End | 6-5 253 | Fourth-Year Junior | Bergen Catholic High School | Spring Valley, New York
How’d He Get Here
Javontae Jean-Baptiste came to Ohio State from Bergen Catholic High School in Oradell, New Jersey. He was the No. 16 outside linebacker in the nation and the No. 219 player in the 2018 class overall. Jean-Baptiste was offered by Ohio State in January of 2018 after recording 88 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, and 11.5 sacks as a senior. He was named NJ.com’s Defensive Player of the Year in the state of New Jersey and offers were rolling in throughout his senior season. He took official visits to Boston College, Ohio State, Virginia Tech, Nebraska, and Texas A&M. Less than a month after receiving his OSU offer, Jean-Baptiste committed to the Buckeyes on signing day of 2018. This despite receiving an offer from Tennessee defensive line coach Brady Hoke a few months earlier.
Javontae Jean-Baptiste redshirted as a true freshman in order to put on weight and get stronger. As a redshirt freshman in 2019, however, he played in all 14 games for Ohio State. He was part of the defensive line rotation for the Buckeyes, though there were numerous injuries at that position throughout the season. Still, he totalled 14 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, and two sacks. He even got a start in his home state at the Rutgers game. Last year he was part of OSU’s five-man rotation and finished with the fourth-highest number of snaps, but that was also due to Tyler Friday missing games. When all five were healthy, it was usually Jean-Baptiste who saw the field the least. But he still played 10-30 snaps per game, depending on the opponent. He finished with six tackles, two tackles for loss, and one sack. Jonathon Cooper is the only defensive end gone from last year’s team, and with the influx of freshman defensive end Jack Sawyer and possibly another addition along with him, it is going to be crowded at DE once again. Now in his fourth year, Jean-Baptiste will be as well-equipped to see the field as he’s ever been.
What to Like
It was clear that when the Buckeyes decided to go after Javontae Jean-Baptiste there would be a good deal of development needed. On his official visit to Ohio State, Jean-Baptiste weighed 195 pounds. When he enrolled five months later, he was 210-215 pounds. There was so much they liked about him, however, that they were okay with the time it would take. He was a tall, long high schooler who could chase the ball down as a linebacker. Jean-Baptiste has kept that same kind of mobility, but now it’s on a 253-pound frame. It took a while to build up the necessary strength, and even now he’s still considered a little undersized by some. It is tough to get snaps at defensive end, which is only going to make Jean-Baptiste have to work harder to get them. By all accounts, that’s exactly what he’s been doing.
What’s the Ceiling This Year?
The expectation is that Javontae Jean-Baptiste will be part of a five- or six-man rotation at defensive end this year, which is going to make it difficult for more than a player or two to go off. Senior Tyreke Smith and junior Zach Harrison are the expected starters, but they’ll only play slightly more than the guys behind them. Jean-Baptiste is going to have opportunities to pressure the quarterback, but every opposing quarterback the Buckeyes face will be trying to get the ball out of his hands as quickly as possible. If he can get two or three sacks and seven or eight tackles for loss, he’d be right in line with what Sam Hubbard and Jalyn Holmes did as part of the 2016 rotation with Nick Bosa and Tyquan Lewis. If Jean-Baptiste hits his ceiling this year, he’s going to have an NFL decision to make.
Part of Javontae Jean-Baptiste’s eventual NFL decision may involve Zach Harrison. The Buckeyes should be losing seniors Tyreke Smith and Tyler Friday after this season, and could also lose Harrison a year early to the NFL. Would Jean-Baptiste then see 2022 as an opportunity to play his most snaps and create his most havoc? It would be hard not to. There is also the possibility that the NFL will see him as a 3-4 outside linebacker, so the more he can show, the better off he’ll be down the road. At this point in his career, he is able to call upon a wide array of tools that Larry Johnson has given him. He can double that up with his athleticism, which should only create more problems. The production in the backfield should follow, but it’s actually not a necessity in order to hear your name called in the first round of the NFL draft, as everyone saw this year.