Ohio State second defensive lineman JT Tuimoloau (44) rests between drills alongside his fellow defensive linemen. Credit: Zachary Rilley | photo editor

Ohio State’s defense moved linemen in and out often last season, and that game plan could be revisited in Columbus in 2022.

Defensive line coach Larry Johnson said if he was “lucky” the Buckeyes would use up to 12 players. Third-year defensive tackle Ty Hamilton thinks up to 14 are ready to go.

Regardless of the final number, Ohio State’s No. 2 front four will most likely rotate between the sideline and the field, which will aid the health and longevity of the unit.

“Normally we would play anywhere between 10 and 11, but, you know, we could get to 12,” Johnson said. “It depends on how the game is played and what we play, what package we play. It all plays into what we do.

Last season’s 21-man defensive line room used the services of all but two players, 15 of whom recorded at least one tackle.

Among last year’s defensive lineup, Haskell Garrett, Tyreke Smith and Antwuan Jackson left for the NFL, while Jacolbe Cowan, Darrion Henry-Young and Noah Potter moved to North Carolina, Kentucky and Cincinnati, respectively. .

The Buckeyes are looking to replace starters with four four-star rookies from the Class of 2022, according to 247Sportsin first-year defensive linemen Kenyatta Jackson, Omari Abor, Caden Curry and Hero Kanu, who was nicknamed “Hero the Hulk” due to his 6-foot-4, 315-pound stature.

This season, the Buckeyes’ 18 linemen have a veteran presence led by the fourth-year player Zach Harrisonfifth year Taron Vincent and Tyler on Friday – the latter having voted a Team captain for 2022 — and graduates Jerron Cage and Javontae Jean-Baptiste.

The Buckeyes also have young talent.

Sophomore defensive tackle Tyleik Williams will build on his freshman campaign, in which he established himself not just as an inside run-stuffer, but showed an innate ability to get after the quarterback , recording five sacks — good for second-best among Buckeye Defenders last season.

Not to mention the highly anticipated emergence of second-year defensive ends Jack Sawyer and JT Tuimoloau.

Both credited strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti with helping with their fitness this offseason as Sawyer – who weighs 260 pounds – said he added muscle this offseason, and Tuimoloau said that he had lost about five pounds.

So the Buckeyes have options on who to connect to the defensive line at all times, and that will pay dividends when it comes to keeping players fresh.

The main downside to having such a deep room, as seen at times over the past year, is that there aren’t as many opportunities to get into a rhythm. Harrison, however, doesn’t think that will be the case this season.

“If you’re on the court, you have to win your head-to-head game, whether you’ve had five games in a row, whether it’s your first game on the disc, or whether you have 10 games,” Harrison said. “Obviously you would like to get into a rhythm, but you don’t always get that luxury if you want to stay fresh and play all season, all four quarters, every game as soon as possible.”

With all the talent the room has to offer, they still realize there’s a lot to learn at this position despite contributing 37 sacks last season – third-best in the Big Ten – establishing a culture of passing on their knowledge. to the next wave of Ohio State defensive linemen.

Tuimoloau said Harrison gave him advice when he arrived in Columbus last year, and now, despite only being in his second year with the program, he wants to do the same.

“When we first arrived, he was just telling us, ‘You know, let go. Go out there and play,’ and that was his biggest piece of advice for us, for us young guys,” Tuimoloau said. “Now we give it to Hero, Kenyatta, Caden, everyone and more.”

Regardless of who is on the court Sept. 3 against Notre Dame No. 5, Johnson said he wants defensive linemen to work together to maximize success.

“You look at wolves, you know, when wolves travel alone, he has a chance of not succeeding,” Johnson said. “When he travels in a pack, that’s where he succeeds.”