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Projecting Buckeyes depth chart for high-upside defensive tackles

Spencer Holbrook07/01/21
Haskell Garrett 2 by Birm-Lettermen Row
Haskell Garrett and the Buckeyes will be strong on the defensive interior. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

The summer offseason is in full swing, and Lettermen Row is trying to survive it with our annual Position Week breakdowns. By the time all nine units at Ohio State have been covered, training camp and media days will nearly have arrived — and the return of football in the Horseshoe will be just around the corner. Let’s continue Defensive Line Week with a defensive tackle depth chart breakdown.

COLUMBUS — Larry Johnson knows what he wants on the interior of his Ohio State defensive line.

The legendary position coach has a type when it comes to both of his inside spots — nose tackle and three-technique. And when he peeks at that talent assembled in his room for this fall, he can see plenty of options to take over as the next wave of interior playmakers.

“We like a bigger guy, but I’ll take quickness over big to make sure we can make a difference at the line of scrimmage,” Johnson said during spring camp. “We want to knock the line of scrimmage back, that’s what we ask our nose tackle to do. Create a new line of scrimmage and make the ball bounce.

“I’m really happy with our guys on the inside and how hard they’re working to make a difference.”

Who are those players ready to make a difference on the interior for the Buckeyes? Returning All-American Haskell Garrett will certainly be a huge part of that. But somebody will need to take over for dominant Tommy Togiai, who left the program for the NFL.

As part of Defensive Line Week, Lettermen Row is breaking down how the depth chart could shake out for the defenders in the middle at Ohio State.

Projected Ohio State starters

Haskell Garrett: How will Haskell Garrett follow up an All-American season? The returning senior was a role player in the rotation for his first three seasons. Last year, he exploded for four tackles for loss, two sacks, an interception and plenty of pass breakups. He is already topping lists as one of the best returning defensive players in all of college football, and he has a chance to solidify his NFL draft status with another huge season.

Garrett could have turned pro after his first all-American season. Instead, he opted to return for one final year with the Buckeyes. And that instantly gave Ohio State one of the best defensive linemen in the country for this fall. His impact on the defense can’t be understated.

Taron Vincent-Ohio State-Ohio State football-Buckeyes

Taron Vincent and Antwuan Jackson will both be aiming to start on the Ohio State defensive line. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Taron Vincent: The No. 1 defensive tackle in the class of 2018, Taron Vincent was a breakout candidate in 2019 but was forced out of action due to injury. He began to show his potential as a five-star player last season in the limited game time, and he can continue that in a starting role this season. Vincent is bursting with potential, and it could finally be unleashed this season for the Buckeyes.

Vincent has just 10 career tackles with two tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks, but he certainly has more talent than his production has shown. He’ll be a playmaker for the Buckeyes this season, and he’s the pick to take over for Tommy Togiai to fill a big need inside for Larry Johnson.

In the rotation for Buckeyes

Antwuan Jackson: The story of Antwuan Jackson has been told plenty of times. After committing to Auburn over Ohio State out of high school in 2016, Jackson came to Ohio State as part of the 2018 class after he went to a junior college. Jackson is using his NCAA extra year of eligibility to play one final season for the Buckeyes, and he is expected to play a huge part of the Buckeyes rotation in the middle. Jackson will compete for the starting role with Taron Vincent and could become a go-to option for Ohio State.

Jerron Cage: A fifth-year defensive tackle, Jerron Cage has plenty of experience learning from Larry Johnson in the defensive line room. Last year, that started to pay off. Cage earned playing time and became a factor in the rotation during the shortened eight-game season, and he should have an even bigger role in the rotation this season after Tommy Togiai moved on to the NFL. He’ll be a contributor. Can he become a final-season breakout candidate?

Ty Hamilton-Ohio State-Ohio State football-Buckeyes

Ty Hamilton will be in the mix for playing time at Ohio State. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Ty Hamilton: The younger brother of former Ohio State and current Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton, Ty Hamilton has quietly been gaining steam as a contributor for the Buckeyes this fall. Hamilton has a good combination of skills to supply for the Buckeyes, and he certainly has a chance to make an impact in the defensive tackle rotation this fall. Larry Johnson likes to play his depth. Hamilton gives him a chance to do so.

Work to do

Jaden McKenzie: After two years in the Ohio State program, Jaden McKenzie is hoping for a third-season breakout. He has battled through injuries at times and can now begin to carve out a role in Larry Johnson’s defensive line room. Does it happen this fall? That remains to be seen.

Darrion Henry-Young: A high-school teammate of offensive lineman Paris Johnson, Darrion Henry-Young has plenty of potential, but he might need another season of development under Larry Johnson before taking a bigger role in the Buckeyes defensive front. But he earned some playing time late last year, so he could have an impact this fall.

Jacolbe Cowan-Ohio State-Ohio State football-Buckeyes

Jacolbe Cowan will push for playing time in Year Two for the Buckeyes. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Jacolbe Cowan: A top-200 player from the class of 2020, Jacolbe Cowan spent last season battling through an injury. If he can prove he can consistently play at a high level after the injury, Cowan could be a surprise candidate for playing time this fall.

Cormontae Hamilton: A former tight end, Cormontae Hamilton has an uphill battle to be on the field with the talent in front of him on the depth chart.

Michael Hall: One of the sleepers of the 2021 Ohio State recruiting class, Michael Hall has a strong work ethic and will eventually have an impact in the defensive interior. But the depth chart is loaded in front of him, so he may have to wait his turn, especially after just arriving in June for the Buckeyes.

Tyleik Williams: A four-star prospect who arrived on campus in time for spring practice, Tyleik Williams is a massive 330 pounds and has a chance to be a force in the future for Ohio State. He’ll have to develop before doing so. The depth in front of him gives Williams a chance to do just that this fall.