Football

JT Tuimoloau Could Give Buckeyes More Than Depth In 2021

Every day until fall camp begins for Ohio State, we will profile a different Buckeye football player. Today that player is freshman defensive end JT Tuimoloau. Yesterday it was safety Andre Turrentine. You can find all of the daily Scoop Profiles right here.

JT Tuimoloau

No. NA | Defensive End | 6-4 277 | Freshman | Eastside Catholic High School | Sammamish, Washington

How’d He Get Here

How did he get here? Very, very deliberately. JT Tuimoloau was the last major 2021 prospect to land with a team, as he committed to Ohio State on July 4, 2021. The reason he waited so long — the rest of his class signed in December and February — was so that he could take official visits this summer. Official visits didn’t happen last year and the family wanted to make sure Tuimoloau got to see the schools he was interested in before choosing his destination. Last month he took official visits to Washington, USC, Ohio State, and Oregon. He canceled a visit to Alabama and ultimately selected the Buckeyes. Tuimoloau is the No. 3 player in the nation and the No. 2 defensive lineman in the 2021 recruiting class.

Current Situation

At this very moment, JT Tuimoloau has not yet arrived on campus at Ohio State, but that should be taking place shortly. When he arrives, he will be one of nine or so scholarship defensive ends on the Buckeyes’ roster, and he’ll be the newest by far. Ohio State returns four of their top five DEs from last season in Zach Harrison, Tyreke Smith, Tyler Friday, and Javontae Jean-Baptiste. Redshirt freshmen Darrion Henry-Young and Jacolbe Cowan both got some good work this spring. Redshirt sophomore Cormontae Hamilton got reps in the spring as well. Tuimoloau isn’t the only freshman defensive end on the roster, of course, as five-star Ohioan Jack Sawyer enrolled back in January. Despite arriving late, many still expect Tuimoloau to ascend to the top six of the position. That’s much easier said than done, however.

What to Like

JT Tuimoloau is pushing 6-foot-5 and 280 pounds, but has the speed and athleticism to play defensive end. It remains to be seen if he’ll eventually grow into a defensive tackle, but if he does, then he’ll be bringing that same kind of skill set to a position that’s even closer to the quarterback. He is also a basketball player and schools — including Ohio State — have given him the greenlight if he would like to pursue it on the side. While some people may be irked by the length of time that this decision took, it gives an indication into how serious Tuimoloau took this decision and what he’ll do to make sure his decision isn’t an empty one. Defensive line coach Larry Johnson can get every bit of effort and technique out of his guys, but only if they’ve bought in. Based on the amount of thought put into his decision to select Ohio State, it sure seems safe to say that he’s bought in.

What’s the Ceiling This Year?

The musical chairs in the Ohio State defensive line room stopped long ago, which means JT Tuimoloau may not even have a chair to sit on at this point. But even perched on an overturned bucket, he’s going to find a way onto the field this season. His ceiling is different than most, but there is still a hierarchy to work through. Tuimoloau will play this year. Larry Johnson will give him reps that are designed to succeed — i.e. going in on passing downs. How well he moves through the hierarchy will depend on how well he performs in his limited opportunities. Successful reps early on will only lead to more reps down the road. His ceiling this year has him in the defensive end rotation, but it may be a group of six doing the rotating.

And Beyond?

You can’t be the No. 1 player according to some rankings and not have NFL expectations. JT Tuimoloau is in the right place to have those expectations met. Larry Johnson will craft the talented defensive end into a finished collegiate product, but it won’t happen overnight. Johnson has too many things that he can teach players, and it’s not a one-year course. Being able to work next to talented linemates is only going to make him more disruptive. The coaches are already looking forward to at least three years of Tuimoloua and Jack Sawyer together. “JTT” will be in the mix as a freshman, but should then become an impact player as part of the rotation next year. If he is going to be a three-and-out kind of guy, then his junior year will be the year where he needs to put everything together. It’s not a quick process, but if we know anything about JT Tuimoloau, quick processes don’t really interest him.