The speculation, debate and conversations about Ohio State never end, and Lettermen Row is always ready to dive into the discussions. All week long, senior writer Austin Ward will field topics about the Buckeyes submitted by readers and break down anything that’s on the minds of the Best Damn Fans in the Land. Have a question that needs to be tackled, like the one today about the defensive tackles and Taron Vincent? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.
Where is Taron Vincent?
— Drew Taylor (@DSTaylorOSU) October 5, 2020
Larry Johnson is still leading the Ohio State defensive line, and that should be enough to erase any questions about the unit.
In the end, it’s a relatively safe bet that the Rushmen are going to be one of the most dominant groups in the country, a handful of linemen will become NFL draft picks and it will seem silly to look back at the preseason conversation speculating about the lack of depth at defensive tackle.
But the Buckeyes are still only a week into full-contact training camp. So for one of the first times in his decorated tenure, it actually doesn’t seem that crazy to wonder just how Johnson will get his position back to the standard he’s established.
There is no uncertainty about the guys on the edge with Zach Harrison, Jonathon Cooper and Tyreke Smith all back to lead the way. But after losing three veterans on the interior and with lingering injury concerns heading into the second week in pads, the defensive tackles are understandably under the microscope right now.
Taron Vincent wasn’t on the field at the Horseshoe during the early portion of practice on Saturday, though Ohio State confirmed he was a participant after the open periods ended. That likely means he was rehabbing from an injury elsewhere before joining the rest of the roster at Ohio Stadium. Coming off a season that was lost due to a shoulder issue and after being seen this summer again in a sling, it remains to be seen exactly what his status will be heading into the opener on Oct. 24.
It’s also unclear exactly how much Haskell Garrett will be able to contribute by then after suffering a gunshot wound in his face in August, though he was in uniform with the Buckeyes last week. There remains an expectation that he’ll be available this season as he continues to recover. Assuming the physical, experienced senior is eventually fully cleared to bolster the depth on the inside, then, the focus will understandably be on Vincent and his health considering the former five-star appeared poised to finally show why he was hailed as the top defensive tackle in the country during his recruitment.
Both Antwuan Jackson and Jerron Cage have been in the program for a few years, developing physically under strength coach Mickey Marotti and technically under Johnson. That tandem perhaps doesn’t get enough credit for the roles they could play this season alongside rising star Tommy Togiai. And with both checking in at 6-foot-2 and nearly 300 pounds, they’re certainly big reasons why there is no panic coming from Ohio State about the position.
It’s also possible that Johnson may have to dip into the deep well at defensive end to again find some assistance at three-technique, a trademark move that has kept the Buckeyes rolling up front in a spot that has helped tap into the potential of guys like Dre’Mont Jones, Jashon Cornell and Adolphus Washington. Could Tyler Friday make a similar move and unleash his pass-rushing skills against overmatched guards? Something like that might have to be considered if Vincent isn’t ready to make that job his later this month.
But there is really no reason for Ohio State to panic right now either way. The program still has more than two weeks of practices to go before playing Nebraska, and at that point it will have a definitive availability report ready that will take the place of speculation. But no matter who is listed there, the Buckeyes still have Larry Johnson in charge, and that should be enough by itself.
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