[This is the 11th and final piece in a series looking at each of Ohio State’s key departures on offense and defense and how the Buckeyes will look to replace them. Up next, nose tackle Tommy Togiai.]

Playing nose tackle, Tommy Togiai was never going to put up huge numbers, but he lived up to the hype in each of his three years as a Buckeye. He came to Ohio State from Pocatello, Idaho, where he was the No. 3 defensive tackle in the 2018 recruiting class. He immediately earned reps as a true freshman, which was impressive considering he had veterans Robert Landers and DaVon Hamilton in front of him.

As a sophomore he was even more involved, but still behind the two vets. Last year was his first time starting and he finished with 23 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, and 3.0 sacks. All three sacks came in the Penn Stage game. Togiai was then unable to play in the national title game against Alabama due to a positive COVID test.

Togiai was the rare nose tackle who was also an effective pass rusher. The Buckeyes have been able to get great penetration from recent nose tackles, but it is very unclear if that will continue in 2021. While defensive line depth has been a strength for Ohio State, losing Togiai early to the NFL has created an issue that must be addressed.

The Candidates

Playing behind Tommy Togiai last year were Antwuan Jackson and Jerron Cage. Jackson is back as a sixth-year senior, choosing to utilize the free year provided by the NCAA. Cage will be a fifth-year senior in 2021. Together, they have seen it all, but much of what they saw was from the sideline.

Redshirt freshman Ty Hamilton played in three games last year and continues to add weight and strength in preparation for this coming season. True freshman Tyleik Williams is already on campus and is an athletic big man who will bear watching. Fellow true freshman Mike Hall will arrive in the summer but is likely slated for the three technique spot.

Speaking of the three techs, that’s where both Haskell Garrett and Taron Vincent reside. Could one of them move over so that they can get their two most explosive tackles on the field together?

Spring Outlook

Without knowing if anybody is moving from three tech to nose tackle, it’s difficult to have an accurate projection of what the spring will look like. If we operate under the assumption that nobody is moving, then things get quite a bit clearer.

As the line of succession dictates, Antwuan Jackson will likely be getting the first-team reps, but both Jerron Cage and Ty Hamilton (if he is still at nose tackle) will get reps there as well. Tyleik Williams as the young upstart will receive a good look and could earn an even better one through the course of spring camp.

Nose tackle has been a playmaking position for the Buckeyes the last few years and defensive line coach Larry Johnson isn’t going to want to take a step back in that regard. He may eventually have no choice, but if somebody shows that they can make plays, they can either move up the depth chart quickly or leave everybody else well behind them.

Best Bet

The best bet here is Antwuan Jackson. This is now his fourth year at Ohio State, which sounds insane when you’re talking about a guy who arrived at OSU as a junior college transfer. Jackson posted 11 tackles and one sack last year, which isn’t that far off from what Tommy Togiai posted the year before. Even though he has had a relatively quiet career to this point, there is little doubt that Jackson is setting up for his best season as a Buckeye. The depth chart is favorable and his overall experience and skill set should have him poised to begin the season as a starter.

The competition behind him will be interesting to watch. Can Jerron Cage hold off the young guys? If not, how many reps are they then able to borrow from Jackson? The nose tackle has a very interesting composition of experienced non-starters and inexperienced non-starters. The experience will count for a lot, but the production will likely count for more.

Replacing Justin Fields
Replacing Luke Farrell
Replacing Tuf Borland
Replacing Wyatt Davis
Replacing Jonathon Cooper
Replacing Pete Werner
Replacing Josh Myers
Replacing Shaun Wade
Replacing Baron Browning
Replacing Trey Sermon

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