Ohio State football: Buckeyes looking for depth on DL

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson knows he has four starters for 2024.

He needs to find four more — at least — this spring who will be worthy of playing time this fall, and he sounded optimistic about what he’s seen so far.

“There’s a chance for us to be really good, but there’s a long ways away to determine that,” Johnson said Tuesday after five practices.

At defensive tackle, the veteran mentor has two talented seniors who have already proven they can be productive players in Tyleik Williams and Ty Hamilton.

Then what?

Hero Kanu had some positive snaps as a redshirt freshman nose tackle last season, and junior Tywone Malone has a year under his belt after transferring from Mississippi.

Then there are 2023 signees Kayden McDonald, Jason Moore and Will Smith Jr.

“There’s a handful of guys in there that now this is their spring to step up,” Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said. “It’s a very, very important spring to build depth in that area.”

Johnson agreed, saying he is looking to be able to substitute more than he did last season when he felt like he did not have as many options as he would like.

“We’ve got a chance to play 17 games so early in the season we may play a lot more young players to make sure we get to that stretch,” Johnson said, referring to the new 12-team playoff’s potential impact. “I think our older players now understand what we’re up against. And the thing I will say to you is we don’t have jealousies in the room. We have a bunch of guys that want to help us win, and if you can help us win, I want you to help us win. So they understand going into this season we have to rotate.”

At end, Johnson also has a pair of seniors in Jack Sawyer and J.T. Tuimoloau.

Beyond that, he should have a much better idea what he’s working with at end compared to tackle.

Kanu saw 90 snaps at tackle, but Malone, McDonald, Moore and Smith combined for 87.

On the outside, Kenyatta Jackson played 174 snaps while Caden Curry logged 165 and Mitchell Melton played 64 at end.

There is still work for the edge guys to do, too, particularly from a consistency standpoint.

“They gotta be able to come in and play 25, 35 plays a game and do it early and do it early in the season,” Johnson said. “That’s the plan to get those guys ready for the long haul. So they gotta play early, gotta play often, and that’s the plan.”

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