COLUMBUS — Tommy Togiai made himself known at Ohio State as one of the top defensive tackles in the Big Ten.
A breakout season last year put the NFL on notice as the junior had 23 tackles, three sacks, two pass breakups and a forced fumble. Togiai’s absence was also significant in the national championship game, making his importance to the Ohio State front seven even more noticeable to scouts.
In a Monday conference call, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said after Iowa’s Daviyon Nixon, Alabama’s Christian Barmore and Washington’s Levi Onwuzurike, a handful of players could be at No. 4 on NFL franchise’s draft boards.
That list includes Togiai.
“He flashed,” Kiper said. “Look at where [Togiai] will be in another year, where he would’ve been with another season of production. That would’ve pushed him up the board a little bit to the point where you’re talking probably no later than the second round.
“I’m thinking fourth round this year. So you’re getting a third, fourth rounder who could’ve been as high as a two with another year of production.”
Kiper announced his position rankings last month, where the 6-foot-2, 300-pound Buckeye ranked No. 8. But on Monday, Kiper said who ever lands at No. 4 could go as high as the third round. Other names mentioned along with Togiai’s were USC’s Jay Tufele and Marlon Tuipulotu, Alim McNeill from N.C. State and Osa Odighizuwa of UCLA.
Togiai had a monster performance in the Sugar Bowl against Clemson with four tackles and a forced fumble, which came late in the third quarter. Justin Hilliard hopped on the loose ball to help seal the College Football Playoff semifinal victory.
“Everybody is battling for that spot,” Kiper said. “If you get to that point, and you are on some teams’ boards as the fourth defensive tackle, you’re talking about the third round. So, I’d say, that’s as high as you could go for Togiai, third or fourth round.”
The Pocatello, Idaho, native gained some early fame after he signed when the program when he was quickly being called the strongest player on Ohio State’s team, an attribute he’s been know for since his high school days.
He spent his first two seasons largely in a reserve role, and there was another NFL defensive tackle ahead of him on the depth chart until last year. Davon Hamilton had 10.5 tackles for loss and six sacks two years ago, just the latest example of the talent the Buckeyes have at nose tackle. The freakish talents at the position have become normalized as of late.
Tommy Togiai didn’t finish with those eye-popping numbers last year — but he still finished with 4.5 tackles for loss in only seven games. Nose tackles are almost always double teamed, but the strength he’s possessed since high school and fine-tuned with Mickey Marotti continues to pay off.
He’ll have the chance to show off that muscle in front of NFL scouts on March 30 at Ohio State Pro Day.