On only five occasions in the history of the storied Ohio State football program has somebody recorded four sacks in a single game. Just five times.
Once by Jason Simmons in 1991, once by Bobby Carpenter in 2005, once by Vernon Gholston in 2007, once by John Simon in 2012 and once by Chase Young in 2019. The most recent time it happened – when Young wrecked the heralded Wisconsin offensive line – the sack artist thrusted his name into Heisman Trophy conversations.
Jack Sawyer won’t be on anybody’s award watchlists in the preseason. Nothing outside of perhaps some preseason Freshman All-American teams.
But eventually he might get there. He certainly made his case on Saturday.
The action inside Ohio Stadium was just an exhibition. The annual spring game. Ultimately, nobody got hurt, and that’s what matters most. Sawyer, however, did his darndest to make himself the biggest story of the day. While unable to hit the quarterbacks due to the minimization of injury risks during an ostensibly meaningless April intrasquad scrimmage, he spent all afternoon getting after them.
By the end of the game, Sawyer had racked up four sacks (though the official stats only gave him credit for three), forcing a Kyle McCord fumble on the first of them. For context, the rest of his Ohio State teammates accounted for a single sack.
“Off to a great start, for sure,” head coach Ryan Day said. “He's earning more and more reps. He's working his way up the depth chart. I think across the board our D-line was solid this (spring). We have some good depth there. But Jack in particular came in with a lot of confidence. He's made a lot of plays.”
He did on Saturday, and he apparently has been doing so behind the scenes for the past month-and-a-half, as well. That, perhaps, is just as important as the quartet of sacks.
See, spring game façades pop up every single year. On one day in mid-April, somebody comes out of nowhere to make a spectacular play or two that puts them on the radar of fans who don’t have the opportunity to see the other 14 spring practices. Oftentimes, those two to three hours of action in Ohio Stadium help set the others’ opinions of players when, in all actuality, what they’ve done in prior practices – or the consistency they’ve had during practice – doesn’t jive with the standout plays.
Sawyer evidently has looked like a bona fide stud for months.
“What you saw today was pretty much most every practice out there,” Day said. “If he can keep building and getting stronger and keep building, then hopefully he's going to have an impact and be able to participate here early in the season. We have a couple big games early on, so the more depth we have, the better off we're going to be.”
Thayer Munford, who’s seen him up close over the past month and a half, added: “He's been doing it very consistently because he's been getting work with coach (Larry) Johnson, Zach (Harrison), Tyreke (Smith), all the veteran players actually that played, and he's been working. He has a motor. I'm just happy that he's on our team.”
Sawyer hadn't played a football game since Nov. 8, 2019. That day, his Pickerington North team lost to Olentangy Orange in the playoffs and he suffered a sprained MCL. The next year amid the pandemic, the defensive end sat out to get himself ready for college football.
Essentially, Sawyer walked out onto the Ohio Stadium field for his first game in nearly 18 months, suited up to take on collegiate offensive linemen for the first time ever as a true freshman, recorded four sacks, then had his head coach and the team’s starting left tackle say they weren’t one bit surprised.
That’s the mark of a great player. Somebody who shines under the lights with everybody watching and somebody who doesn’t miss a beat when it's only his coaches and teammates watching.
“All the things that stand out are pretty obvious,” Zach Harrison said. “Jack's got a great first step and great bend around the edge, and that's something you really can't teach.”
Sawyer unabashedly arrived on campus intending to play a significant snap count early in his career. As he said last summer, he “sure as hell” didn't sign his National Letter of Intent while planning to sit on the bench early in his career. Along with the five-star rating next to his name that denoted the skill level of the 6-foot-4, 240-pound edge rusher, he had spent multiple years as a commit learning the ins and outs of defensive line coach Larry Johnson’s technique and expectations. He did everything in his power to put himself in position to get on the field as quickly as possible.
Quite clearly, it worked.
A little over a week ago, Johnson said Sawyer is “going to be a special player” at Ohio State and that the coaches are “going to find a role for him.” Nine days later in the spring game, Sawyer showed why Johnson knows he’ll have to find a way to get the true freshman on the field.
“Jack's real. Jack's legit,” Harrison said. “Jack's going to be a great player.”