COLUMBUS — Jack Sawyer didn’t waste any time before he got to Ohio State.
So it should be no surprise that he’s already making the most of every second once he officially arrived on campus with the Buckeyes.
The five-star product of nearby Pickerington was long a fixture at every camp with the Buckeyes as a recruit to make sure he could grab a head start on the developmental process with legendary position coach Larry Johnson. And that advance prep work appears to be paying off in a hurry for both him and the Buckeyes with the freshman already pushing for a spot in the vaunted Rushmen rotation.
“He doesn’t have to convince me — one thing we’re going to do is we’re going to find a role for him,” Johnson said on Friday morning. “If he continues to work had and do the things that we’re asking of him, we’ll find a place to play him. I’ve never been afraid to play freshmen. He’s got a chance to be in that five or six defensive end roll, and we’re going to find a role for him. You can be sure of that, and I think that’s important.
“Now, he’s got to earn it, that’s the biggest thing. But we’ll find a role going forward if he turns out what I think he might be down the road.”
The learning curve is different for every pass-rusher, and sometimes it takes a couple years before Johnson’s techniques fully take hold and elite recruits start tapping into their potential. But Sawyer purposefully tried to speed that process up before even signing with the program, and the signs of progress are hard to ignore.
First, his black stripe has already been removed with a week of spring camp still to go for the Buckeyes. The reviews from his new teammates have also been overwhelmingly positive. Then there is Johnson’s evaluation, which speaks volumes since he generally tends to avoid singling out anybody from his unit.
There is certainly still a long way to go at such an early juncture in Sawyer’s career. But so far his first spring camp is only going to increase the buzz about his future at Ohio State.
“Jack, man, he’s picking it up fast,” veteran defensive end Tyreke Smith said. “I think he’s going to be a tremendous player. He came to the right program, because Coach J is going to get guys where they need to be. He’s just really picking up the technique and the flow of the game. He’s been doing really good.
“Every day I feel like he’s getting better. I feel like his rushes, he’s getting stronger as a player and a person. I think he’s doing really good.”
The Buckeyes didn’t exactlyÂ need JackÂ Sawyer to show up and provide an instant impact. With Smith back for another season, Zach Harrison taking his game to another level, Javontae Jean-Baptiste adding more strength to go with his athleticism and Tyler Friday bringing plenty of experience, Ohio State already had the makings of a fearsome foursome.
But Johnson loves to rotate his pass-rushers, and he’s also not shy about using freshmen — both of which could open the door for Sawyer by September.
“It’s still early, but I certainly like where he’s at right now, there’s no doubt about that,” Johnson said. “He’s been here, he understands our system and he’s playing really well. The thing I like about Jack: He’s a fierce competitor. He hates to lose. I mean, he wants to win every rep. I love that about him. I think he’s going to be a special player down the road.
“We’re going to wait and see as we get into the fall after we get down with the spring and summer workouts. But I certainly like where he’s at in his development right now.”
That process started even before Jack Sawyer arrived at Ohio State.
Clearly the Buckeyes can tell it worked.