With senior Tyler Friday out for the season with a torn ACL and junior Zach Harrison among those unavailable for Saturday’s game against Tulsa, Ohio State’s four-man defensive end rotation this afternoon is set to include senior Tyreke Smith, redshirt junior Javontae Jean-Baptiste and true freshmen J.T. Tuimoloau and Jack Sawyer.
The freshmen have only had a limited role through the first two games of the college careers, as Tuimoloau played just 25 snaps and Sawyer played just seven snaps in the season-opening win at Minnesota and last week’s loss at home to Oregon, registering one tackle between the two.
But now they’ll have an opportunity to make a significant impact on a defense looking for playmakers in the wake of the loss to the Ducks.
“They’re going to have to get on the field a little sooner than maybe we thought before,” head coach Ryan Day said Friday’s injury was revealed on the first day of fall camp in early August. "That’s really that whole defensive end room now because you lose a guy.”
Saturday’s game will also give the Buckeyes and defensive line coach Larry Johnson a glimpse of the future in Columbus, as Friday, Harrison, Smith and Jean-Baptiste should all be playing at the next level within the next two years, leaving Tuimoloau and Sawyer to terrorize opposing offenses.
“Just like all of the great players (before them), it’s a process. It’s not just going to happen overnight,” Johnson said of their growth as players on Aug. 17. “Everything J.T. and Jack are doing, they’re learning for the first time. That’s going to take time to figure out. You just have to hold tight and watch and see how they develop as we go forward.”
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