Football

Spring Gleaning: More Depth Than Expected for Ohio State Defensive Tackles

Now that spring football is over, it’s time to look back at exactly what we just saw. We’ll continue going over each position group with what was learned and what still needs to happen. There are only two groups left. Up next will be the Ohio State defensive tackles.

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Quick Position Overview

The loss of nose tackle Tommy Togiai a year early to the NFL was unfortunate for the group overall, but the Buckeyes still went to spring practice with eight scholarship players between the two defensive tackle positions. The best news for Ohio State was that starting tackle Haskell Garrett chose to use his free year to come back for a fifth season. He is joined at the three technique position by senior Taron Vincent. Together they provide the kind of penetration that the position demands. The nose tackle spot will continue to work itself out, but sixth-year senior Antwuan Jackson and fifth-year senior Jerron Cage are the most experienced options. Redshirt freshman Ty Hamilton and true freshman Tyleik Williams are likely the future at the position.

Expectations Going In

The expectations going into spring were that Haskell Garrett wouldn’t be expected to do much, which would allow Taron Vincent to establish himself as a formidable option. Antwuan Jackson and Jerron Cage were expected to man the controls at the nose, while youngsters Ty Hamilton and Tyleik Williams made some noise. Everything else was a bit of a mystery, bordering on a concern.

Reality Coming Out

Haskell Garrett sat out the spring due to some medical procedures (which won’t impact his regular season), which allowed Taron Vincent to really establish himself inside. He’s finally healthy and now he’s doing what he was recruited to do. The nose tackle spot is deeper than expected, especially when you consider the fact that all of the tackles are capable of playing either spot. This means the Buckeyes could go stretches with both Garrett and Vincent in the game together.

Any Surprises?

The move of redshirt sophomore defensive end Noah Potter was a surprise simply because he’s so tall. A defensive end moving to tackle was speculated about all winter long, but Potter probably wasn’t on many peoples’ list to move. He played well in the spring game and had his coaches saying positive things about him over the second half of camp. Potter didn’t look out of place on the inside. He’s obviously tall for a defensive tackle so he’ll have to make sure he stays low, but it’s not like he’s just discovering that he has height.

Unanswered Question

How much is Tommy Togiai going to be missed? Togiai was a difference maker for the Buckeyes last year. Losing him for the national title game was a significant blow for the Ohio State defense. No, it wasn’t the deciding factor, but having more talent on the field is always better than having less. So what remains this year at defensive tackle is what we saw last year in that game. Players do improve and some talented freshmen will join the picture, but will a difference maker emerge? And might that difference maker be Haskell Garrett or Taron Vincent sliding over full time?

So Now What?

So now the young guys like Ty Hamilton and Tyleik Williams will continue to get stronger so that they can lift up the entire room (figuratively). Antwuan Jackson and Jerron Cage will work on their hands and feet in order to keep defensive line coach Larry Johnson from replacing them too much. Everybody is going to watch from the sideline at some point and nose tackles will get hit harder than most in that regard because they aren’t as needed on passing downs. This summer will be spent preparing for camp so that they can show they belong on the field as much as possible.

One Concern

Taron Vincent had a fantastic spring and looks in line to take the same kind of step that Haskell Garrett took last year. The concern is that if these are your two best tackles, how do you maximize them? Do you play them together? Rotating them will keep them fresh but it also takes them off the field maybe more than Larry Johnson would like. If they end up in a rotation, that will speak well of the options at nose tackles. However, if it’s about getting the best 11 on the field, it would be a bit of a surprise if those two aren’t playing side by side at times.

Are We Sure?

There is now plenty of depth, but are we sure there is plenty of productive talent?

Quotable

“That guy’s got to be a powerful guy. He’s got to be smart. He’s got to understand protections to know where he can get his two-way go at, that’s just football talk. But that’s the kind of guy we’re looking for at nose tackle. We like a bigger guy, but I’ll take quickness over big to make sure we can make a difference in the line of scrimmage. We want to knock the line of scrimmage back. That’s what we ask that nose guard to do, to create a new line of scrimmage and make the ball bounce.” — Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson on what is required of the nose tackle.

Depth Chart

Three Tech

92 Haskell Garrett | Graduate Senior | 6-2 300
Haskell Garrett had an improbable season last year, earning All-American accolades along the way. He remains the leader of this room and has set the example for his teammates.
6 Taron Vincent | Senior | 6-2 300
Finally healthy, Taron Vincent had a very strong spring. He is quick and strong, making him an equal threat against both the pass and the run. Could be in line for a big 2021.
97 Noah Potter | Redshirt Sophomore | 6-6 270
Noah Potter moved from defensive end to defensive tackle this spring and didn’t look out of his element doing it. He’s a taller guy so leverage will be a focus moving forward.
90 Jaden McKenzie | Redshirt Sophomore | 6-2 290
Jaden McKenzie has seen time on defense in just four games over his first two seasons in Columbus. He has spent much of that time dealing with injuries.

Nose Tackle

52 Antwuan Jackson | Graduate Senior | 6-2 300
Antwuan Jackson has been a valuable backup at Ohio State but now everybody in front of him is gone and the job at nose tackle is his to be won.
98 Jerron Cage | Fifth-Year Senior | 6-2 300
Jerron Cage did not play much early in his career but has worked his way into the rotation through sheer determination. Will that be enough this year though?
58 Ty Hamilton | Redshirt Freshman | 6-3 290
Ty Hamilton has defensive tackle success in his family and showcased his strength and quickness all spring long to the upperclassmen. It will be difficult to keep him on the bench this year.
91 Tyleik Williams | Freshman | 6-3 330
Even though he is just a true freshman, Tyleik Williams is the biggest of Ohio State’s nose tackles. He’s a tremendous athlete for his size. He did battle some slight injuries this spring.