Quick Hits: Ohio State's Defensive Coaches Discuss Transfer Additions at DT and CB, Give Injury Updates and Expectations Ahead of the 2023 Season

By Chase Brown, Garrick Hodge, Dan Hope and Griffin Strom on May 30, 2023 at 6:45 pm
Larry Johnson

Ohio State's defense is preparing for its second season under defensive coordinator Jim Knowles.

Nearly a month and a half after the conclusion of spring football, all four of Ohio State's defensive assistant coaches met with reporters on Tuesday at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center to provide updates on how their individual position groups were developing. Coaches that spoke include defensive coordinator Jim Knowles, cornerbacks coach Tim Walton, defensive line coach Larry Johnson and safeties coach Perry Eliano.

Questions ranged from inquiring about the new transfer portal additions in Tywone Malone and Lorenzo Styles Jr., to the development of certain payers, to expectations for the upcoming 2023 season.

We broke down several important topics each coach discussed below, with videos of the interview provided after each section.

Jim Knowles

  • Knowles says Sonny Styles is "more adept at playing a high safety position than you would think for a bigger guy. … "He'll be able to compete at a high safety position, because I think we're gonna need him there." Knowles says there will still be a package where Styles plays closer to the line of scrimmage, too.
  • Tommy Eicheberg and Steele Chambers are “both 100% now” health-wise after dealing with injuries in the spring.
  • Knowles says C.J. Hicks and Gabe Powers “made a lot of progress” in the spring and predicts “some time this season we’re gonna see (Hicks) really unleash.” Knowles says Hicks won’t be “pressed into service” because of the veterans in front of him, but says “he’s on the cusp of breaking out.”
  • Knowles mentions Hicks and Mitchell Melton as the two players he’s looking at as Jack linebackers in the 2023 season.
  • Knowles says the defensive breakdowns at the end of the 2022 season “has haunted me, but just haunting me, that doesn’t do anybody any good.” Knowles says “if it’s a problem, you have to fix it. You have to take accountability.”
  • Knowles says Ja’Had Carter is a “versatile guy” who “increased the competition at all the safety spots.” Knowles says Carter is “fine” health-wise after having his spring cut short with an injury.

Tim Walton

  • Walton said Ohio State will “see how it goes” with Lorenzo Styles Jr. switching to cornerback, but that “so far he’s been impressed with him. He’s a mature guy that works hard and has a good head on his shoulders with good size and speed.” 
  • On the cornerback starting roles, Walton said “everything is always open.” 
  • Walton said Denzel Burke “had a great spring.” He lauded how locked in Burke was and called him “our leader over there.” 
  • Jordan Hancock was another player that “had a really good spring” per Walton. “He’s another guy that’s smart, very mature and understands the game. He’s working hard this summer and looking forward to him continuing the path he’s on.”
  • On Jyaire Brown, Walton said the second-year cornerback has gotten “bigger, stronger and his on the field play is stronger and you can see he’s picked up a little muscle.” Walton said he expects big things from both Brown and other cornerbacks that are in their second year in the system. 

Larry Johnson

  • On Ole Miss transfer DT Tywone Malone, Johnson says “I hope he can bring some depth to us” and that he recruited him out of high school. Johnson says Malone is now fully focused on football after also playing baseball during his time at Ole Miss.
  • On freshman defensive lineman Jason Moore, Johnson says “I like Jason, I think Jason’s got a good chance. He’s a real quiet storm, I call him, he doesn’t talk much very much but he works very hard, looks good.”
  • Johnson says the defensive line is “not there where I want them to be right now,” but thought his unit had good moments in the spring and showcased good technique up front. Johnson says the group is “getting close” to being where he wants it to be.
  • Johnson says JT Tuimoloau’s Penn State performance was “like a Michael Jordan moment” but that consistency is “key” for him moving forward in 2023.
  • On depth at defensive end, Johnson says he’s looking forward to the battle between players like Mitchell Melton, Caden Curry, Kenyatta Jackson and Omari Abor. “We’re counting on those guys.” Johnson says Jackson “did some really good things” in the spring.

Perry Eliano

  • Eliano said Ohio State's safeties "grew tremendously" this offseason, something he attributes to most players returning for a second season in Jim Knowles' defensive scheme. "They've gelled, played faster but have understood that there is still work to be done. I have been pleased to this point."
  • Eliano said Ja'Had Carter's late-spring injury was "unfortunate" as it set him back after some tremendous progress he made early in the offseason. "I hate that it happened. It was unfortunate. He's back to 100%, and he has done everything that we've asked of him to this point."
  • Eliano has been pleased with Lathan Ransom's development on and off the field this offseason, as the safeties coach believes he's seen Ransom step into a leadership role in the early months of 2023. "He's an even better leader today than he was last year."
  • Eliano said Sonny Styles had a "really, really good offseason" and has continued to prove himself as a younger player at Ohio State. "He's only 18 years old... Sonny has worked, and he's played on the biggest of stages to his young career and did well. We are gonna find ways to get guys on the field."
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