Confident, “Trimmed Up” Ohio State Defensive End Jack Sawyer Ready to Take Next Step in 2023

By Andy Anders on August 17, 2023 at 3:57 pm
Jack Sawyer

It was a nonchalant answer Jack Sawyer gave as to how much bad weight he trimmed this offseason, but upon quick reflection it’s pretty substantial that he’s dropped “six to seven” percent of his body fat.

Despite bulking back up to 265 pounds in his switch from the hybrid defensive end-linebacker “Jack” position to once again be a true defensive end, Sawyer is feeling lean, mean and keen on having a breakout season with his fellow defensive linemen in 2023.

“This offseason I wanted to trim up a little bit and lose some body fat, which I did,” Sawyer said. “Getting in shape more, getting my explosiveness back a little more and becoming a little more twitchy again. So that was my main focus this offseason.”

Defensive line coach Larry Johnson made a point Thursday to state multiple times that the Jack and defensive end are two different positions. The talk all offseason surrounding Sawyer has been his comfort level now that he’s back on the edge, where he played in high school and his freshman year in Columbus. His above-mentioned physical developments have also made an impression on the Buckeyes’ coaching staff.

“Jack is a defensive end,” Johnson said. “I think he’s more happy now with his hand in the ground, rushing from the end position. And Jack’s done a good job taking care of himself. He’s got his body weight down, he’s really trim and he’s really done some good things for us. I’m excited to see how his season goes.”

“I feel very comfortable being back at defensive end,” Sawyer said. “I feel happy about it. When me, Coach (Jim) Knowles and Coach J talked about it after the season, that’s what I wanted to do and that’s what they thought I was best at, too.”

In 13 games playing from a two-point stance in his hybrid role last campaign, Sawyer accumulated just 24 tackles. His 4.5 sacks were tied for the team lead, but a far cry from the production of elite defensive ends from Ohio State’s past.

That’s not to say it was a wasted year. His running mate opposite him at defensive end, sophomore JT Tuimoloau, has noticed improvements in Sawyer’s processing ability.

“I think playing Jack helped him. He can read things a lot better and it helped his mind,” Tuimoloau said. “I know Jack is a difficult position, but he came and brought that same mindset, pushed all of us.”

Sawyer stated he isn’t setting specific statistical goals to surpass his play from a campaign ago. He, Tuimoloau and the Buckeyes’ defensive leaders met before fall camp and decided to put aside any individual aspirations in that regard, instead focusing on the present and approaching every practice with a growth mindset.

“A lot of us haven’t had the career we’d thought we’d have the first two seasons,” Sawyer said. “I think it’s hard to come in on the defensive line and put up those huge numbers. I don’t think a lot of guys do that. So I think collectively as a D-line, if we just try to put one foot in front of the other every day and try to get better every single day, before we know it, at the end of the season we’ll look up and see all those numbers.”

One way Sawyer and his frontline mates have tried to improve is by working on their respective get-offs from the line of scrimmage. Firing off the ball a split-second quicker with a hair more explosion could be the difference between getting to the quarterback and not on a given play.

“We’ve been working on our first steps as a collective, as a D-line. When you get so close to having a sack — last year, we were this close 20-something times," Sawyer said, holding his thumb and index finger near each other to indicate how close they were. "So it’s just finding everything you can do to get better and get to the quarterback faster.”

With his reshaped body and regained familiarity off the edge, Sawyer will hope to threaten said opposing passers and provide a boost to the defensive line in 2023.

“I see him on the end and we just feed off one another,” Tuimoloau said. “When he’s hype, I’m hype. And that’s just how the whole D-line works.”

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