Ohio State Buckeyes: Committee could replace Chase Young at defensive end

Ohio's No. 1 prospect from 2019, Zach Harrison, meets with reporters on National Signing Day at Ohio State (Photo: Marcus Hartman/CMG Ohio)
Ohio's No. 1 prospect from 2019, Zach Harrison, meets with reporters on National Signing Day at Ohio State (Photo: Marcus Hartman/CMG Ohio)

Joey Bosa. Nick Bosa. Chase Young.

Zach Harrison?

Ohio State has an impressive streak of five-star defensive ends turning into all-star performers when their turn comes.

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Harrison, a sophomore from north of Columbus, isn’t worried about that, though.

Neither is defensive line coach Larry Johnson.

“I tell the players all the time, ‘You can’t live up to that standard,’” Johnson said. “The Bosas are great players. Chase Young is a special player, but you can live up to who you could possibly be. I think that’s the biggest challenge. He’s got to block the noise from the outside that he’s gonna be the next guy and really continue to concentrate on his development.”

Young was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy last season and won the Bednarik, Nagerski and Hendricks Awards after logging 16.5 sacks and 21 tackles for loss.

Joey Bosa was the two-time Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year, a two-time consensus All-America and finished his career with 26 sacks and 50.5 tackles for loss.

His younger brother, Nick, was Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year and an All-American in 2017. He finished with 17.5 career sacks and 29 tackles for loss despite having most of his final season wiped out by injury.

“That’s great, but you’ve got to be your own player,” Johnson said. "And that way he doesn’t look at himself and say, ‘Hey I’ve got to do this, got to do that and get so many sacks.’ It’s tough doing that when you start chasing those kind of things, so he’s done a good job, he’s listening.

“He’s done a good job understanding what it takes to be an elite player, but at the same time he’s got to be himself, and that’s the thing I’m talking about.”

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Harrison played in all 14 games last season, including two starts, and finished with 24 tackles, including five for loss and 3.5 sacks.

Although he was considered a raw prospect upon arriving in Columbus, he finished with the second most snaps among OSU DEs last season.

“Those guys who came before me are a bunch of great players and there’s a lot of expectations for me to do so and so numbers and so and so sacks,” Harrison said. “And honestly I don’t really try to think about that every day in practice. I try to go out, get better, work on my technique and also it’s not just one person coming up next year. It is a whole unit of guys who’ve got something prove, so we’re all gonna come out in first game and show what we’ve been working on.”

Of course, one doesn’t have to be a five-star recruit to become a decorated Ohio State defensive lineman.

Tyquan Lewis and Johnathan Hankins are just two examples of that.

Lewis, a four-star prospect from North Carolina, was the 2016 Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year in between the Bosas winning the same award, and Johnathan Hankins, a three-star prospect from Detroit, helped usher in the Urban Meyer era by earning All-American honors in 2012.

Johnson has more of those types in the queue as well.

Tyreke Smith, Tyler Friday and Javonte Jean-Baptiste were all four-star prospects in the 2018 class, and they are expected to compete for time in the end rotation behind Harrison and Jonathon Cooper, a fifth-year senior looking to end on a high note after injuries slowed him early since he arrived as a five-star prospect himself.

Inside, Ohio State lost senior stalwarts Robert “BB” Landers, Jashon Cornell and DaVon Hamilton, but Johnson still looks to go three deep at both spots — eventually at least.

Tommy Togiai is expected to take over at nose tackle with junior Jerron Cage and freshman Ty Hamilton (DaVon’s little brother) also catching Johnson’s eye so far in the preseason.

At the other tackle spot, senior Antwuan Jackson may move into a starting role but Johnson likes what he has seen from redshirt freshman Jaden McKenzie, a more under-the-radar recruit than most of his fellow front-liners.

Cage, a four-star recruit who hasn’t made much of an impact since arriving from Cincinnati Winton Woods, can play either interior spot, and Ohio State hopes to have junior Haskell Garrett and redshirt sophomore Taron Vincent inside sooner than later.

Both of them are coming back from medical issues. Vincent missed last season with a shoulder injury while Garrett is recovering from a gunshot wound suffered in late August while reportedly trying to break up a fight.

“We’ll see what happens as we get closer to a game week,” Johnson said last week.

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