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Jonathon Cooper: What redshirt decision means for defensive end, Buckeyes

Jonathon Cooper-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football
Ohio State senior captain Jonathon Cooper will take a redshirt season and return to the Buckeyes. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Ohio State Football

Jonathon Cooper: What redshirt decision means for defensive end, Buckeyes

COLUMBUS — Jonathon Cooper didn’t get the senior season he wanted, so he’s taking a do-over at Ohio State.

Returning for another year and using a redshirt was certainly not on the mind of the defensive end when he reported to training camp. The captain had high expectations both personally and for the Buckeyes back in August as he prepared for a starting role for the vaunted Rushmen on a national-title contender — though that plan was sidetracked by a painful high-ankle sprain midway through preseason practice.

As the injury continued to linger and the season progressed to what was supposed to be his final game at the Horseshoe, Cooper started strongly considering the possibility knowing he still hadn’t played four times yet and had the option to come back for a fifth season. The decision was made ahead of Saturday’s huge matchup with Penn State that Cooper wouldn’t participate in the senior festivities, instead saving that tribute for next year.

Ohio State-Larry Johnson-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson will get to work with Jonathon Cooper for another year. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Buckeyes can still deploy Jonathon Cooper again this season

After making the decision now before he actually played in a fourth game, Ohio State still has the chance to use Cooper once more if necessary. It’s not likely the Buckeyes would do it against Penn State now that Chase Young is returning to the lineup, and they win the East, there would be no upside in a lower-stakes version of The Game next week at Michigan. From there, though, the Buckeyes could pick a spot in the postseason where they could put Cooper back in the mix — either in the Big Ten title game, or more likely, in the College Football Playoff. Cooper was in pads again at practice this week, so even if there might be rust, he should still be able to contribute if the Buckeyes need him. It would be truly fascinating to see if what would happen if Ohio State earns a spot in the semifinal. Would Cooper play then — or hold him out for a potential national-title game roster bonus?

Ohio State might not need to sign another defensive end

The numbers are getting tight as the early signing period draws closer for the Buckeyes, who for months seemed like they would be solidly in the market to add an edge rusher to a defensive line haul that currently includes commitments from Darrion Henry, Jacolbe Cowan and Ty Hamilton. There were signs earlier this week when Cade Stover moved down to defensive end that maybe Ohio State was shifting priorities for this class, and Cooper’s return would appear to further diminish the need to use one of the final spots on a defensive end. The talent at the position in the current recruiting cycle isn’t considered to be all that impressive or deep, but Ohio State is in a position now where it wouldn’t be pressed into taking a recruit it doesn’t truly want just to fill a need. In the short term, having Cooper back is a no-brainer — but along with Stover’s transition, the Buckeyes might have bought a little time for the long-run outlook at the position as well.

Lettermen Row Director of Recruiting Jeremy Birmingham contributed to this report.

Austin Ward

Austin Ward is Lettermen Row's senior writer covering Ohio State football and basketball. The award-winning journalist has covered the Buckeyes since 2012, spending five of those seasons working for ESPN after previous stints at the Casper Star-Tribune and Knoxville News Sentinel.