Quick Hits: Larry Johnson, Six Buckeyes Break Down Ohio State Defensive Line, Early Progress in Spring Practice

By Griffin Strom, Dan Hope, Chase Brown and Garrick Hodge on March 23, 2023 at 3:15 pm
Larry Johnson

Entering his 10th year at Ohio State, Larry Johnson's goals for his defensive line haven't changed much.

The Rushmen have their sights set on domination in 2023, and despite losing players like Zach Harrison, Taron Vincent and Jerron Cage from last year's group, the Buckeyes still possess plenty of talent to accomplish that task up front.

Johnson met with media members for an interview session following Ohio State's fourth spring practice at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center Wednesday, discussing expectations for his latest unit and much more. Ohio State defensive ends Jack Sawyer, JT Tuimoloau and Caden Curry were also available for interviews, and defensive tackles Mike Hall, Tyleik Williams and Ty Hamilton all opened up about the progress they've made so far – and the strides they hope to make moving forward – this spring.

We've rounded up some of the most notable comments from each of them below, and you can watch the videos below to hear what each of them had to say.

Larry Johnson

  • On the defensive line group as a whole, Johnson said “A lot of young guys have to step up.” Johnson acknowledged that OSU is only four practices in to spring football and that the Buckeyes have a long way to go, but they’re working hard and he’s happy with where the group is at. 
  • Johnson said if Mike Hall is healthy, he has the opportunity to be “special. He’s got all the skill sets, he just has to be healthy and go from there.”
  • Johnson said he pushed for Jack Sawyer to go back to playing defensive end instead of the Jack position, saying “I thought just evaluating it and conversation with coach, I said I think it’s best for Jack to go back to the line of scrimmage. I think we have another guy here that can play Jack and let him put his hand in the ground and let him go rush. I thought it was a good experiment, but now let’s go play football. I think that’s the best position for him.”
  • Johnson said Ohio State has to build depth across the defensive line for next season. “I feel pretty good about the inside guys, I feel we have some strong depth there for next season. And now we have to build the end position. I’m looking forward to see what happens over the next 14 days.”

Jack Sawyer

  • Asked about playing defensive end full-time this spring rather than playing Jack linebacker, Sawyer said “it’s good to get back and work on the fundamentals of being a defensive end.” He said it was “a lot with the plays” cross-training between both positions, but “I’m just excited to get back to playing defensive end, where I feel home at.”
  • Sawyer said he doesn’t have any regrets about playing Jack last year, but said he would “probably be lying” if he said last year was the year he expected. He said the defensive ends collectively feel like they missed too many sacks and tackles for loss last season, so “we’re looking forward to finishing those plays off this year.”
  • On playing defensive end rather than Jack: “I like coming off the ball with my hand in the ground more than standing up.”

JT Tuimoloau

  • Tuimoloau said he hopes to stay more consistent this season and acknowledged he “always wants to have room to improvement and allow myself to grow.” 
  • Tuimoloau said it’s “crazy” that he’s one of the older players on the defensive line as he enters his third season with OSU. He thanked his previous teammates for teaching him how to lead. 
  • Tuimoloau said the defensive linemen “always have each other’s backs” with whoever is playing at any given time.

Caden Curry

  • Curry said he lost some speed in the process of gaining weight last year, so he’s trying to get that back. He currently weighs 260 pounds, which is 10-15 pounds heavier than when he arrived at Ohio State, but thinks he’s gotten “a lot more looser and faster this offseason.”
  • Curry said he thinks he and his fellow defensive linemen “definitely are understanding and communicating better as a whole unit.”
  • Curry was honored that Zach Harrison identified him as a player to watch during his press conference at the NFL Scouting Combine. “I really looked up to him last year as a player.”

Mike Hall

  • Hall said he’s recovered from the injury suffered last season that caused him to miss some time on the field and that next year’s motto is “new year, new me.”
  • On his goal for next season, Hall said he hopes for OSU to “be the best defensive line group in the country.”
  • Hall said he’s been impressed with several of his second-year defensive teammates, including Kenyatta Jackson Jr. and Hero Kanu.

Tyleik Williams

  • On his biggest goals for the spring: “I just want to dominate. I feel like it’s my turn to step up. Our whole group needs to dominate. We need to implement the Rushmen back into what it’s been.”
  • On stepping into a leadership role: “Me and Jaden (McKenzie) are like the old D-tackles. So trying to speak my mind, speak what I know to the younger guys. Because I’ve been here going on my third year, so I’ve seen a lot. Just gotta teach it to them.”
  • Williams says Taron Vincent and Jerron Cage helped him find a love of the game again after missing his senior high school football season due to COVID-19.
  • Williams says he was “lazy” when he first came to Ohio State but that Zach Harrison and the rest of the defensive line got on him early and made sure he put in extra work.
  • Williams says “our group don’t have no weaknesses in my eyes,” and calls himself a “disruptor” on the defensive line.

Ty Hamilton

  • Hamilton specifically named Caden Curry and Omari Abor as two players that have impressed him this spring. However, he added that “everyone in the room” has shown tremendous progress and he looks forward to playing with them this fall.
  • Hamilton has recognized that he is the oldest player in the defensive line room and believes that puts him in a natural leadership position. Like Jerron Cage, Taron Vincent and Zach Harrison before him, Hamilton says he needs “to set the tone for the start of the season.”
  • Hamilton said he doesn’t have an “ideal” season in mind for his fifth year at Ohio State. He just wants to do what’s best the team and play his role. “I’m not too worried about stats. I just want to play football.”
  • Hamilton said one of Omari Abor’s best qualities is his hard work. He sees that in all of the Buckeyes’ freshmen and sophomore players and believes the future of Ohio State’s defensive line room is in good hands.
  • Hamilton’s message to the rest of his room is that they must stay together. Hamilton said they will succeed this spring and in the 2023 season if they can do that. “When we’re all together, man, you can’t stop us.”
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