Jacolbe Cowan has been playing defensive end since he was 5 years old, and he has something to say for those who think he’s bound to move to the interior of the line when he comes to Columbus.
He isn’t going anywhere. At least not permanently. Ohio State’s latest big-time commitment is certain of it.
“I mean, all I have to say is just watch my film,” Cowan told Eleven Warriors. “Watch all four years of my film, and you’ll see I’ve played maybe, at most, five snaps at defensive tackle, and that’s if we go to a bear front in my high school defense when they have a tight formation and pack it in and we stack the box on them.
“I play defensive end. … That’s pretty much where I’ve played my entire life. So for the ones that think I’ll potentially move over to defensive tackle and all that other stuff, I don’t know, I guess I’d say only time will tell and wait until I get to Ohio State. We’ll see then.”
Cowan, who officially committed to the Buckeyes on Friday night, is ranked as the 15th-best defensive tackle nationally by the 247Sports Composite ratings.
But the four-star senior, a 6-foot-5, 262-pound star out of Charlotte (N.C.) Providence Day High School, has played exclusively at strongside defensive end on the prep stage and has been a success on the weakside as well.
With his frame, however, the Buckeyes' coaching staff could also utilize him as a three-technique defensive tackle if shifted a few feet to his right, especially if he adds about 20 pounds over the next year or two.
“I’m a versatile guy. I can do whatever and play on the interior as well. But in all honesty, I don’t think that’ll be happening.”
Many scouts believe Cowan will be used in that capacity at the next level, but it might not matter what others think. Larry Johnson has a vision for how he’s going to develop and use Cowan, and if Johnson thinks Cowan should be used exclusively as a defensive end, it’s next to impossible to question that given the coach’s legendary track record.
“I’m a versatile guy. I can do whatever and play on the interior as well. But in all honesty, I don’t think that’ll be happening,” Cowan said. “Coach J recruited me specifically for (defensive end). He told me he has a plan for me in that position.
“He told me the only time I’d be playing defensive tackle is if, say there’s a mismatch or a certain matchup and I have a chance to win that matchup. Yeah, I might play a few snaps against a particular man at defensive tackle, but other than that, I’ll be playing my position at defensive end.”
Whether at end or tackle, Cowan oozes self-confidence in his belief he will be able to follow in the footsteps of fellow Johnson projects like Chase Young, Nick Bosa and Joey Bosa. Those are the former Ohio State greats whom Johnson specifically compared Cowan to throughout his entire recruitment – balanced, impactful players who slow down both the rush and the pass.
I am truly blessed to be in this position, without the man above none of this would ever be possible.— J C 12 (@JacolbeCowan12) October 5, 2019
I am 100% COMMITTED!!!
And then there was 1... pic.twitter.com/ZVkSpZ5RM7
Cowan formed a relationship with Young at The Opening Finals in Texas in June, a bond that continued to grow over the following months, and two weeks after that initial meeting in Frisco is when Cowan made his official visit to Columbus.
It was during that visit when Johnson laid out his detailed plan for Cowan with a PowerPoint presentation. He showed Cowan the Buckeyes’ depth chart, where he would fit in, which guys Johnson was recruiting at that time and how many spots Ohio State still had open.
Then he let Cowan know exactly what he was capable of on a national scale.
“He had particular goals for me for each year – some very high but attainable goals,” Cowan said. “He set the standard and the bar pretty high.”
Johnson wants Cowan to produce early and be an impact player as a freshman, and as his career progresses, he wants Cowan to lead the conference in sacks. Those lofty expectations line up directly with what Cowan sees his own ceiling to be.
“I definitely wanna chase some records and break some records that have been held by a lot of the greats that have come before me,” Cowan said. “I think if I (produce as a freshman), it’ll give me a lot of momentum going into my sophomore year. Hopefully I can just keep the ball rolling and at the end accomplish my goals.”
About a month after that meeting with Johnson, Cowan made his decision. He was going to be a Buckeye. He just had to keep it under wraps until he finally decided he wanted to make it known to the rest of the country.
We spoke with @PDS_ChargersFB DE Jacolbe Cowan @JacolbeCowan12 who made the play of the game with an incredible interception to help seal the Chargers victory. For full interviews, pics, & highlights click below:https://t.co/pR2hRznL6p pic.twitter.com/wXRCghj8hp— Matt Morrow (@pepman704) September 21, 2019
But now, everybody knows, and he says it’s been a heavy weight lifted off his shoulders. He was able to stroll into Columbus for the Buckeyes’ win over Michigan State on Saturday without having to answer any questions about whether or not Ohio Stadium was going to be his next home.
And he was able to board a return flight Sunday afternoon back to a place he compares to Columbus’ comfortable, small-city vibe — his hometown Charlotte.
It was in that city where Cowan’s recruitment to Ohio State first gained traction.
Though Georgia had beaten the Buckeyes to Cowan’s recruitment by about a year, Urban Meyer’s staff began recruiting Cowan as a freshman, and that left Cowan impressed.
Meyer and Ryan Day later made the trip down together to see the sophomore Cowan face-to-face in January 2018, and they offered him on the spot.
Day being there is key to note. He was there from the get-go on Cowan’s recruitment, and that relationship never festered.
“It was very important,” Cowan said of Day’s presence. “It meant a lot just because I really got to know him just from that visit alone. And, of course, with him taking over and becoming the head coach, it was just a smooth transition. Any time you have a major coaching change like that and you’ve already gotten to know the guy that takes over, it means a lot. The comfortability definitely grows with that person. It was a smooth transition and definitely played a huge part.”
The main selling point, though, came down to the coaching staff having his best interests at heart. That starts and ends with Johnson.
“Coach J and I have an amazing relationship. We communicate all the time,” Cowan said. “It’s just the man that he is (that’s so impressive). He prides himself on being a man of God, and he’s an uplifting coach. He empowers his players, and I think that’s why his players play so hard for him. He’s a developer, and he believes in developing guys and having a full plan.”
The short-term plan is for Cowan to enroll early to begin offseason weight training in January and begin his cultivation into a Division I player. The long-term plan is also in place now that he’ll be mentored by a man who has sent seven of his former players at Penn State and Ohio State into the first round of the NFL Draft.
“(Johnson’s) a huge developer so I can’t wait to get to work for him and get to pick his brain,” Cowan said. “Of course, (the NFL) is a huge goal of mine. That’s been a goal of mine since I was a kid so I think I made a great decision choosing Ohio State because they’re known for developing guys and producing NFL defensive linemen. So I’m just ready to get to work.”