Jonathon Cooper showed up at Big Ten Media Days with a big, shiny conference championship ring on his left hand.
He has two of those, and the likelihood of earning a third will increase with more contributions from second-year defensive linemen Taron Vincent, Tommy Togiai, Tyreke Smith, Tyler Friday, Javontea Jean-Baptiste and Alex Williams
“Those guys are so talented, and I really do feel like we can be the best defensive line unit in the country,” the senior end said after naming the entire group of scholarship players up front. “We just need those young guys to step up, and I feel like they will.”
Vincent, Togiai, Smith and Friday all made their debuts last season and are expected to use that experience to springboard to bigger things in 2019 while Williams and Jean-Baptiste were both praised for having strong springs.
“I feel like whenever you’re thrown into the fire, nervousness will hit, you don’t have that sense of confidence yet,” Cooper said. “You don’t know what to expect until you’re actually in a game. Now that they have been through that I feel like they will be a lot more confident on the field and perform at a high level.”
“I think they’re gonna give us a lot more production than they did last year.”
>>The receivers room at Ohio State has some similarities to the defensive line group.
Three seniors — K.J. Hill, Austin Mack and Binjimen Victor — appear ticketed for the starting lineup while a handful of other players will compete for playing time, too.
That includes highly-touted redshirt freshman Jaelin Gil and true freshman Garrett Wilson along with senior C.J. Saunders, junior Jaylen Harris and sophomores Chris Olave and Ellijah Gardiner.
“At the end of the day, it’s who the coaches can trust,” Hill said. “If the coaches can trust you knowing what you’ve got to do on this place, that you’re gonna catch the ball, all that ties into playing.
“Coming from high school, maybe one year in from Ohio State it’s kind of hard because you’re still finding yourself.
“You don’t know your swag yet. You don’t even know who you are yet. In high school, you were the man and now you’re one of many. That’s what it boils down to, if the coaches trust you.”
And how does one find his swag?
“You’ve gotta find your own,” Hill said with a smile. “You catch a ball, do a celebration, then people will start seeing you.”
>>While everyone wanted to know about who is next on the defensive line, there were also a few questions about the oldest member of the Ohio State front.
Cooper laughed when asked what playing with Robert “BB” Landers is like.
“I love that guy,” Cooper said. “He’s a character. He goes extremely hard, and he’s a leader. I rely on him for a lot of things just because he is an older guy to me and like an older brother. I can go to him and talk to him about any questions that I have. It’s fun. It’s fun playing with BB.”
A three-star recruit coming out of Wayne in the class of 2015, Landers has been part of the rotation for three years and became a starter last season.
Listed at 6-foot-1, 285 pounds, he has 17.5 career tackles for loss.
“He’s quick,” Cooper said. “He’s little. He’s not gonna be happy with me saying that, but he is. Oh well, BB.”
But there is a bright side to being “vertically challenged,” as coach Larry Johnson describes Landers.
“Low man wins,” Cooper said. "I don’t know why he’s always so mad about his height. All his life all you hear is low man wins. Haha, he’s little.”
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