There’s been a lot of talk — and excitement — about Ohio State’s defensive ends for the 2022 season. And rightly so, when you have a squad that includes three former 5-Star prospects in Zach Harrison, Jack Sawyer and JT Tuimoloauas well as others who will contribute.
However, what about the Buckeyes’ defensive tackles? What are their expectations ? It looks like there is a clear top 5 – in any order – which includes the second year Tyleik Williamsfifth year senior Taron-Vincentsixth year senior Jerron Cagefreshman in red shirt Mike Hall and junior ty hamilton. Then, to complete the 3-deep, it will either be a fourth-year junior Jaden McKenzie or incoming freshman Hero Kanu.
Earlier this month, the defensive coordinator Jim Knowles expressed confidence in OSU’s defensive tackles.
“I feel good in this group,” he said. “I feel good. “There are a lot of guys who compete inside our defensive line. There are a lot of guys who have shown the ability to make plays; the guys who have experience I think it’s just a good mix. You know, we’re going to be able to do a lot of good things with this band.
Vincent was the No. 1 ranked defensive rookie in the nation in the 2018 class and struggled with injuries during his time at Ohio State. He had the best game of his career in the Rose Bowl victory over Utah, and Knowles said he postponed that until the spring.
“I think Taron is going to be awesome,” Knowles said. “I mean, he’s got experience, like you said, but he’s shown great leadership, great attitude, you know, open to process, eager to learn the new system. . And he’s smart. You know, he picks things up quickly. So I think the sky is the limit.
The Buckeyes haven’t had a defensive tackle the size of the 6-foot-3, 320-pound Williams since Johnathan Hankins in 2012. Most OSU DTs weigh around 300 pounds or less.
“I think he has a presence in there,” Knowles said. “As you said, a slightly different and really effective presence for what we do. I think Tyleik is going to do very well and the system will be able to place him in places that match his skills.
Knowles was then asked about his general philosophy on defensive tackles. Does he prefer bigger “space eaters”? What about the smaller, faster guys? Luckily for the Buckeyes, Williams is a big guy who is also very fast.
More good news for OSU is that the 6-foot-2, 292-pound Hall has been turning heads this spring and will definitely be in the DT rotation for the team. Hear what Knowles had to say about Hall, off the cuff, talking about his DT philosophy.
“I’ve been less ‘size and spatial’ and more just really first step and speed and attack mentality,” Knowles said. “You know, those guys are always hard to find, but I think I’ve always been more aggressive. Kind of like Mike Hall, you know? I mean, I thought he did great things for us in the spring. He gets the ball out quick and he… to me, that creates as much of a problem as a guy who’s just sitting in there at 350 and can’t be moved.
But Knowles acknowledges that if you can find the rare “space eater” who also has plenty of speed, it can be a game-changer for a defensive line.
“Yeah, that changes everything, right? Knowles said. “Because now you can always rely on the double team, so you can schedule ‘OK, they’re going to have to double this team and now you can schedule someone else to be free because you know he’s going to have to commit two. And when you can find that, it’s great for all the surrounding areas of defense.
Just to be clear, is that something Williams can provide for the Buckeyes this season? Does he have the potential to be the kind of defensive tackle that always commands a double team and disrupts what the opposing offensive line is trying to accomplish?
“Potential? Absolutely,” Knowles said. “He has the potential to do that. Now we have to go out there and prove it.