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Ohio State football: 40 thoughts on 40 defensive players

Ohio State football: 40 thoughts on 40 defensive players


The spring transfer portal is closed. Teams can still add players, but no one else can enter the portal.

Now is a good time to look at Ohio States' roster.

Here are 40 thoughts on the 40 Ohio States defensive players. On Tuesday we committed a foul.

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Ohio State football: 39 thoughts on the Buckeyes' 39 offensive players

Defensive endings

Mitchel Melton, R-Sr: Melton is probably one of the most overlooked players on the defensive line. It's nothing against him, but he's been hurt for a lot of his career. Still, the Woody Hayes Athletic Center believes this is the moment when Melton makes a difference. He looks good and feels comfortable in defence. If you're looking for an under-the-radar X-factor on defense, it's Melton.

JT Tuimoloau, Sr: When Tuimoloau decided to return, expectations for the defense immediately skyrocketed. He is that good and impressive. I get it, he only had five sacks and 7.5 tackles for a loss last year, but he had six quarterback hits. He wants to make himself a first-round pick with a strong season and with his athleticism, he should be.

Jack Sawyer, Sr.: Tuimoloau gets a lot of love, especially in the NFL's mock drafts, but you could make a case that Sawyer was the best defensive lineman at the end of last season. He led Ohio State with 6.5 sacks and 10 tackles for a loss. He is an athletic defensive end who can come after the pass rush, but has also shown a consistent ability to stop the run. There is no better combination in the country than Sawyer and Tuimolaou, and now they have depth around them as well.

Caden Curry, Jr.: Another low point that could start anywhere in the country, Curry should also have a strong year. Curry has been set up as a key part of the second team on the defensive line. The good thing about Curry is that you can move him, especially in the Rushman package, and he can still be effective.

Kenyatta Jackson Jr., R-So. Jackson was the story of the Spring 2023 Session, yet he never quite made the impact some thought he would. He played 167 snaps, third most among defensive ends. He already has the talent to be an elite pass rusher and should get a chance to show that this year. Last year you saw a drop when Tuimoloau and Sawyer came out. I don't think we'll see that this season.

Joshua Mickens, R-Fr: There is so much depth for Mickens, I don't think he's ready to make that jump yet.

Eddrick Houston, Fr: I want to see fall camp before I jump on the bandwagon completely, but Houston is going to be really good at Ohio State. He finished the spring strong and was able to work his way into the end of the rotation before the season ended. However, a good fall camp is first and foremost important.

Dominic Kirks, Fr: Kirks will arrive on campus this summer, but will need time to get used to the program.

Ty Hamilton had 38 sacks for the Buckeyes in 2023. (Barbara J. Perenic/The Columbus Dispatch/USA Today)

Defensive tackles

Ty Hamilton, R-Sr.: Hamilton is my type of defensive lineman. He puts his head down, eats double teams and doesn't ask for much else. What we saw this spring, however, was Hamilton's ability to demand double teams and play through them. We saw that in leaps and bounds last season, but he is stronger and does it more consistently. He's going to wreak havoc on offensive guards and centers this year.

Tyleik Williams, Sr.: Williams is one of the best interior linemen in the country. He has elite speed off the ball, like his former teammate Mike Hall, but Williams is bigger: 6-foot-4 and 327 pounds. He can run into quarterbacks and has good instincts for knowing when to put his hands up to deflect the ball. He had five pass breakups last season. He has a chance to make a lot of money this season.

Tywone Malone, R-Jr: Larry Johnson said it took time for Malone to adjust to playing just football, but he is getting better as he approaches a full year with the program. However, I'm not sure yet if he will be an impact player. Fall camp will determine that, but Ohio State could use the depth.

Hero Kanu, R-So: Kanu got much better at the end of last season. He finished with 10 tackles and one sack in just 88 defensive snaps. He carried that into the offseason with a good spring. He's firmly in the second rotation and has a chance to break that third year that so many people are talking about.

Kayden McDonald, So: McDonald has all the tools to be a contributor to the second team. He stands 6 feet tall and weighs 326 pounds, but he is also extremely strong. I'm looking forward to his reps this year as he could open some eyes.

Jason Moore, R-Fr: There was a lot of talk about Moore this spring. After redshirting last season, I think he's two deep over McDonald. He gathers what can be a deep inner group.

Will Smith Jr, R-Fr: Smith is learning and developing more, but I think he still needs time before he can get on the field for big shots.

Eric Mensah, Fr: Give him time. Probably redshirt this year, but at 6-foot-4 and 290 pounds, the tools are there.

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Cody Simon, graduating senior: Simon is by far the most experienced linebacker and replaces Tommy Eichenberg at Mike linebacker. He will do well in that position after racking up 57 tackles last season, splitting time. I will be responsible for leading the rest of an inexperienced, albeit talented, linebacker corps.

Kourt Williams, R-Sr: Williams moved from safety to linebacker, but missed all of last season due to injury.

C.J. Hicks, Jr.: After years of asking to see more and more of Hicks, fans are getting what they've been craving. Hicks, a former five-star prospect from Dayton, is probably the most talented linebacker on the roster, but he doesn't have a lot of experience. He only played 72 defensive snaps, so there may be some bumps and bruises early on, but he can be a difference maker.

Sonny Styles, Jr: I still don't know what Ohio State will do with Styles, but the idea of ​​having him, Hicks and Simon on the court at the same time intrigues me. Not only will they be versatile enough to play the run and pass, but the blitz designs that Jim Knowles can put together with them will be a headache for offensive coordinators.

Gabe Powers, R-So: Powers had a good spring, but I think it will be another year before he gets into the lineup with so much talent in front of him.

Arvell Reese, So: Reese is a talented young player that the Ohio States staff loves. He started the spring as the second Mike linebacker and I think you'll see him on the field in late games. That time will be important because Ohio State likes his potential.

Payton Pierce, Fr: Pierce was in Columbus this spring, but there is too much talent waiting for him. The focus is on development.

Garrett Stover, Fr: Stover, a former linebacker turned safety, has the athleticism to stand out. He is still young and needs more time.


Denzel Burke, Sr.: The All-Big Ten corner returned for another year and should put himself in All-American and first-round territory this year. Burke was a lockdown corner last year, I expect the same and more than one interception this year.

Jordan Hancock, Sr: Hancock was robbed of an All-Big Ten honoree spot last year. He has completely changed the way Ohio State's defense works because of his success at nickel. Now he's back for another year and is the perfect chess piece for a loaded secondary.

Lorenzo Styles Jr., R-Jr: Styles redshirted last season after switching to corner. He has talent, but it looks like he's at least behind Jermaine Mathews on the depth chart.

Davison Igbinosun, Jr.: Igbinosun remains one of the best additions to this defense in the Jim Knowles era. He fits in perfectly with the secondary and had a fantastic spring. His confidence remains high and his length was clearly visible, especially in the red zone.

Jermaine Mathews Jr., So: Mathews made a big impact last year when the injury hit the Buckeyes. He played so well that he deserved playing time the rest of the year and should get the same this season. The sophomore corner makes the idea of ​​more dime packages intriguing because there won't be a weakness in the secondary.

Calvin Simpson-Hunt, R-Fr: Simpson-Hunt had a nice spring game with an interception. The hope is he can enter fall camp to provide depth.

Miles Lockhart, Fr: I like Lockhart's physicality. He had a good spring and should make nice progress after this redshirt year.

Bryce West, Fr: West missed the spring after an injury, but that shouldn't change his long-term impact. He has the chance to be special.

Aaron Scott Jr., Fr: Scott played this spring and there were some bright spots, but like West and Lockhart, this is a developmental year.


Lathan Ransom, graduating senior: Ransom was great last season before leaving the Wisconsin game with a season-ending Lisfranc injury. He didn't participate much this spring, but he will still be half of Ohio State's dynamic safety duo. The key will be to stay healthy.

Keenan Nelson, R-So: The newest addition to the Buckeyes is the transfer from South Carolina. Nelson will have three years of eligibility remaining this year, so if he doesn't acclimate right away, it won't be bad. His impact extends beyond this season.

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Caleb Downs, so: The freshman All-American from Alabama was Ohio State's biggest asset this season. The Buckeyes filled the only hole on their roster and did it with a player who could come in and be the best defensive player in the program. With him and Ransom, the Buckeyes have two dynamic safeties to cover the rest of the defense.

Malik Hartford, so: Ohio State had to dig deep last year and found out it could trust Hartford more than many thought. He should play this year even if Downs and Ransom are healthy. He needs more experience to take the next step in his junior season.

Jayden Bonsu, R-Fr: With a strong performance in the spring competition, there's a chance we'll see more from Bonsu this season. He's unlikely to take big shots on Caleb Downs or Ransom, but the spring showed Ohio State can trust him with injuries.

Jaylen McClain, Fr: McClain scored an interception in the spring game that capped the start of his Ohio State career. We have time to build on that in what should be a developmental year, but a strong fall camp will be important for more depth.

Leroy Roker, Fr: This is a redshirt year for Roker, who needs a year of development anyway.

(Top photo by Mitchell Melton: Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch/USA Today)




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