Football

Larry Johnson, Buckeye Defensive Line Talk Spring Ball, Creating Havoc

Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson met with reporters today to recap how spring has gone for his Rushmen. Also speaking with the media were Haskell Garrett, Taron Vincent, Jerron Cage, Antwuan Jackson, Zach Harrison, Tyreke Smith, and Javontae Jean-Baptiste. Here are the highights of everything that was said on the day.

Larry Johnson

— Taron Vincent wasn’t healthy last year and now he’s healthy and he’s gone through the offseason in a great position. He’s what they thought he’d be when they recruited him. He’s everything they looked for in a three technique defensive tackle.

— Local recruits who sign at Ohio State have an advantage in growth because they’re on campus more and at camp more learning the techniques.

— “I’m really excited about this group.” They lost Tommy Togiai but there are guys waiting to step up in the wings, like Taron Vincent and Jerron Cage. It’s been great to watch them work this spring.

— They faced a lot of quick throws last year. They were so close so many times to getting sacks, so they went back and studied it to see how they can get there quicker. Little technical things. But sometimes pressure is better than a sack because you can force interceptions. “I’m not a guy chasing numbers, I’m just chasing perfection.”

— Tyreke Smith’s lack of sacks last year was a little bit about quick throws. There also scheming involving how he’s been blocked. You don’t want him freelancing.

— Tyreke Smith has a very quick first step and if he stays healthy, you’ll see a different guy on the field this year.

— You have to be powerful and quick to play nose tackle. Antwuan Jackson is a quicker guy than Tommy Togiai. They like a bigger guy but they’ll take quickness too if it will knock the line of scrimmage back and make the ball bounce. Antwuan Jackson is a smarter player than he was in the past.

— There is a process to become a veteran. You have to grind year after year. That’s what Haskell Garrett did. His level is very high. Now he’s trying to move beyond that as well. Other guys in the DL room are making similar moves. Zach Harrison has “moved to the next level.” He understands it. He plays fast.

— Jack Sawyer, “I certainly like where he’s at right now.” He’s playing well. He’s a fierce competitor who hates to lose. “He’s going to be a special player down the road.”

— The players are excited to have fans in the stands for the spring game. “I know the young guys are excited about it.” It will be nice to see people instead of posters.

— They will find a role for Jack Sawyer if he continues to work like he has been. “I’ve never been afraid to play freshmen.” If a kid has a role, he’ll work hard at it. He has to earn it, but they’ll find a role for him.

— Last year was difficult. Everybody struggled, including him, but they persevered and learned about themselves.

— Recruiting via Zoom has forced him to adapt as a recruiter. You can’t wow kids in their homes right now. It’s hard to have that connection if you can’t do it in person, but they have adapted and they’ve had success.

— It wasn’t easy for Taron Vincent dealing with injury. He felt like he was letting the team down, but he didn’t pout about it. He went to work, which accelerated his return. They expect great things from him this fall.

— Jonathon Cooper’s work ethic is off the charts. “He deserves a chance.” He can play 10-15 years because he’s going to do it every day. He’s a lot like Sam Hubbard in that way.

Haskell Garrett

— He’s trying to sharpen his mind right now that he’s out for spring. He’s in the coaching phase right now and is trying to develop the other guys.

— He thinks Taron Vincent can have a big year. He’s healthy and hungry.

Everybody knows how to play both positions at nose tackle and three technique. Taron Vincent is doing well there, as is Antwuan Jackson.

— What he needs to improve on is his strength at the point of attack. People said he had a great season last year but he needs to be better than he was last year and he’s working to make that happen.

— When you can take what you learn in the classroom to the field it allows you to feel so much more comfortable on the field. It’s a trust thing. If you trust your technique, that’s what matters. It’s an internal thing. “If you know and trust what you’re doing…it makes you play even faster.”

— As a leader he needs to be on his toes and do extra stuff so that he can lead the defensive line on and off the field. He needs to be the example of what it’s supposed to look like on the field.

— One thing he is focusing on right now is his conditioning. Last year he came back and only had about four days of training and conditioning before his first game. Now he wants to be able to go all out until the season is over.

— “We’re happy to have Buckeye Nation back in the stadium.” Having your family there is awesome, but having fans back in there so the fans can experience what they experience is great.

— On his return, “I just want to leave behind a great room for Coach J.” He wants to leave his mark and leave a legacy.

Tyreke Smith

— His focus last year was on all of the little things regarding technique and it showed.

— He played all season without COVID until the Alabama game, but he has an opportunity this year to play every game and he’s excited about it.

— He found out he was going to miss the Alabama game the Monday before the game. He didn’t know he had COVID. He didn’t believe it at first. “I didn’t want to get mad. I couldn’t do anything about it.” He watched the game at home.

— This spring he is doing the same thing as last year, working on the little things. Just trying to do everything the right way, whether it’s eating, lifting, technique. Then after practice he goes to watch film to correct what he did wrong. Then the next day he’s working on his corrections.

— Jack Sawyer is picking it up fast. “He came to the right program.” He has picked up on everything. He gets better every day. He’s going to be really good.

— He has watched the film to see what he could have done last year to get to the quarterback and bring him down. He’s worked on every little thing to make that happen this year.

— He feels great. He’s healthy. “I’m not trying to waste my chance.” He’s locked in on everything they are asked to do. That’s his approach this year.

Zach Harrison

— He’s seen a difference in Tyreke Smith since the winter. He’s attacking everything.

— Jack Sawyer is a sponge. He asks questions. He’s got God-given abilities. “I think Jack’s going to be a special player around here.”

— He made a conscious effort this offseason to give everything he’s got to the program and see where it takes him.

— “I’m excited about the unit.” Most everybody is back. “We all know what it takes now.” They know where they need to improve and they’re taking that personally so they can reach their goals.

— Both Jack Sawyer and Tyleik Williams have flashed and he’s pretty sure they’re going to make it.

— Taron Vincent got stronger last season and he’s improving on his pass rush every day. “I think Taron is going to be a big factor for us on the inside.”

— He gets better every day because he’s going against Nick Petit-Frere and Thayer Munford. Then every day after their done they talk to each other about how they were successful against each other. They help each other every day during and after practice.

— He’s helping Jack Sawyer like the old dudes helped him out. Eventually Jack will do the same thing.

— He’s always talked a lot. He talks a lot during practice.

Javontae Jean-Baptiste

— He’s gotten stronger and by being stronger he’s gotten faster because he can put more force into the ground.

— He wants to show his coaches that he can be a leader and make everybody around him better.

— Tyreke Smith is getting better. He’s looking really good.

— The defensive ends talk about how they’re all at the top of their game right now and how other teams are going to be in trouble.

— His get off has improved this spring and he is playing the run better right now as well.

— On his official visit at Ohio State he weighed 195. When he enrolled he was around 210-215. Now he’s at 253. His body fat is 12-13%. The difference is dramatic. “I feel it.” It’s a big difference.

Taron Vincent

— “I’ve been fully healthy this whole offseason,” so he’s been able to develop his skill set and take things to the next level.

— He wasn’t able to get the full amount of treatment last year that he needed so it delayed everything when he returned.

— Injuries are a part of the game. He struggled with it at first, but he talked to his dad and his dad told him these things happen. Just get healthy and things will work out.

— His father is former NFL cornerback Troy Vincent, so he’s helped him along with this entire process, handing down knowledge on being a big-time football player at a big-time school.

— He feels stronger and faster now. The game is slowing down so he can see stuff before it happens.

— All the defensive tackles can play both spots. It elevates all of their games to play both spots. Both spots cause havoc and that’s the job. Just mess the offense up.

— He’s very excited to get fans back in Ohio Stadium.

Jerron Cage

— Last year was the biggest push for his growth. He got stronger.

— At three technique, you have to get off the ball every play. He’s the motor. The nose tackle is the disruptor.

— The defensive line became so close last year because of the quarantine and they played off of each other and excelled.

— The Alabama game was emotional for him. They sacrificed so much last year. His son was just born and he couldn’t see him. He played for his teammates and his son. His teammates helped him through all of that.

— He didn’t play much his first couple of years and he asked himself if he was ever going to play. He’s stuck with it and it’s paying off now.

Antwuan Jackson

— Ty Hamilton is doing well as a young buck. “He’s pushing weight just like his big brother.”

— He had to put some thought into returning. “I know I could do more.” He’s continuing to improve. He wants a national championship.

— Ty Hamilton isn’t as tall as his brother but he gets off the ball like him.

— He is very grateful to have this sixth year. It’s an honor to be a Buckeye and have this chance.

— Taron Vincent is impressing because he’s available. “I’m just really happy playing with him right now.” He and Vincent “wreck the line of scrimmage.”

— This is a big offseason for him. “It really starts right now in spring ball.”

— There are a lot of leaders on the defensive line because they all talk to each other after practice to help everyone get better.