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How Tommy Togiai could determine championship ceiling for Buckeyes

Tommy Togiai-Ohio State-Ohio State football-Buckeyes
Ohio State defensive tackle Tommy Togiai needs a breakout for Buckeyes. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Question Of The Day

How Tommy Togiai could determine championship ceiling for Buckeyes

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 Tommy Togiai? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.

There may be spots on the Ohio State depth chart where there is uncertainty, but there really aren’t any that should be considered weaknesses.

Primarily that is thanks in large part to Tommy Togiai, since having the strongest man on the roster almost single-handedly makes that description a poor fit for the situation at defensive tackle. But it’s also a reflection on just how much confidence the Buckeyes have in the junior, who appears ready to finally emerge into the kind of game-wrecking weapon that has been projected since his arrival.

In some ways, Togiai’s otherworldly strength, rare agility and the fact that he would be playing for Larry Johnson raised the expectations for him too high, too soon. Even with those impressive physical tools and great coaching, experience also tends to be a prerequisite for stardom in that role. The old coaching maxim about it taking longer to develop the closer a player is to the football was easy to forget after glancing at Togiai. But it’s worth a reminder when evaluating at his relatively modest production during his first two seasons.

Tommy Togiai-Ohio State-Ohio State football-Buckeyes

Ohio State defensive tackle Tommy Togiai is aiming for a big season. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

It’s also important to remember that there were a bunch of damn-good veterans on the depth chart ahead of Togiai over the last couple seasons, which also meant that Ohio State didn’t have to rush anything before the Idaho native was ready for the spotlight.

But now that DaVon Hamilton, Jashon Cornell and Robert Landers are all gone, there can be no doubt that Togiai has to emerge as the leader. And with no clear timeline for recovery for Haskell Garrett this fall, the urgency is even greater for Togiai — and he might wind up playing more snaps than Ohio State tends to prefer given the way it rotates the Rushmen. But if anybody can handle that load, it’s a safe bet that the broad shoulders of Togiai are ready for it.

“I think I’ve improved a lot from last year,” Togiai said after his sophomore season. “Gained a lot of maturity, too, throughout this year. I think a lot of my technique has improved.

“With the [veterans] just teaching me my steps and all that, helping me out, giving me pointers on how to play nose guard, that helps. Giving me tips on how to get off blocks and get better with my hands, that really helps.”

Not every path to a prominent role is the same, of course. And while generally defensive tackles need time to mature physically to hold up in the middle of the line, Togiai’s development was always likely to be more dependent on the technical side.

Johnson will be the first to point out that his work there is never truly finished with his defensive linemen. But by now, there should be more than enough tools in the box for Tommy Togiai to take the torch and lead the way for the defensive tackles — and Ohio State certainly needs him to if it’s going to reach its championship potential.

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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.