We continue the Better Know a Buckeye series with its third installment in 2018. Here, we profile Taron Vincent, the No. 1 defensive tackle prospect in the country.
- Size: 6-2/285
- Position: DT
- Hometown: Baltimore, MD
- School: IMG Academy
- 247 Composite: ★★★★★
- National Ranking: 20
- Position Ranking: 1 (DT)
- State Ranking: 2 (FL)
- The Opening Finals
- U.S. Army All-American
Vincent comes from fine football stock. His father was a five-time Pro Bowler and is currently the Executive Vice President of Football Operations for the NFL. His older brother signed with NC State in 2014. As we'll see, it's his older brother's recruitment in the 2014 cycle that played an important role in how Taron Vincent pledged to Ohio State. Larry Johnson was the focal point for both recruitments in those cases and played an outsized role convincing Taron Vincent to come to Columbus.
I retell this below and further expand what Larry Johnson meant for Taron Vincent's recruitment to Ohio State. Thereafter, I provide a scouting report of the most complete defensive tackle prospect Ohio State has signed since Meyer took over the program in 2012. I suggest Vincent should see plenty of time on the field in 2018 much like Chase Young broke through the two-deep as a true freshman last year. I conclude with some highlights to watch at the end of the feature.
Taron Vincent is no stranger to the football recruiting process. His father, Troy Vincent, played football at Wisconsin. He was also a five-time Pro Bowler and is currently Executive Vice President of Football Operations for the NFL. His older brother, Troy Jr., signed with NC State in 2014.
His older brother may have played some indirect role in why Taron Vincent favored Ohio State so early into the process. Troy Jr., a class of 2014 recruit from the Gilman School in Baltimore, was originally committed to Penn State from June 26, 2013 to Jan. 16, 2014. Larry Johnson, then a Penn State assistant coach, was his primary recruiter as his regional focus was in the DMV (DC-Maryland-Virginia) area.
More Taron Vincent at 11W
Bill O'Brien's departure for the Houston Texans set off a chain of events that led Larry Johnson to Ohio State. James Franklin's arrival led Larry Johnson to pursue another opportunity. Mike Vrabel joined Bill O'Brien's staff, creating an opening for Johnson to come to Ohio State. Troy Vincent Jr. decommitted from Penn State amid this shuffle and later signed with NC State. However, the Vincent's fondness for Larry Johnson did not change.
If anything, it gave Ohio State an early advantage for Taron Vincent when the younger brother's recruitment started. The Buckeyes extended their scholarship offer on March 4, 2015 and were in pole position at every point in his recruitment thereafter. Vincent, who had transferred from Gilman to the IMG Academy in Florida, may have even committed to Ohio State much earlier if it were not for his father encouraging him to slow things down momentarily. A source at IMG Academy explained to Eleven Warriors:
I talked to one source at IMG recently and they pulled no punches.
"Taron's such a great kid all around," the source said. "He's all about the Buckeyes, which is a good sign for us heading forward."
In fact, the source went on to say that were it not for his father – Troy, who played at Wisconsin – urging him to slow down, a commitment to Ohio State may have already happened by this point in the summer of 2016.
Vincent's delay gave an opportunity to Florida State, which emerged as the primary challenger to the Buckeyes for Taron Vincent's commitment. Florida State's staff put on a full-court press to woo Vincent to Tallahassee from spring to fall of 2016. Vincent visited Tallahassee that April and fielded in-school visits in May. He made follow-up visits in June and November.
The pressure from Florida State did little to move the dial on a recruitment that favored Ohio State from the beginning. The most recruiting analysts suspected Vincent might pledge to Florida State came in the wake of his junior day visit in 2017 in which just two of 15 recruiting analysts pegged Vincent as leaning toward Florida State. Incidentally, even the Florida State recruiting insiders suspected he was always en route to Ohio State.
Vincent would confirm their suspicions in the few days after an unofficial visit from March 29-30 of last year. He had seen enough and enough time had passed in his recruitment to justify making an informed decision on where to play college football.
On April 2, 2017, Taron Vincent pledged to Ohio State as the third member of what would become Ohio State's full 2018 recruiting class. He chose Ohio State over a myriad of other offers, though Florida State was the primary competition for his verbal commitment.
There were a lot of reasons why Vincent chose Ohio State. Larry Johnson may have been the biggest factor. Johnson was the focal point of his older brother's recruitment to Penn State. His older brother decommitted from Penn State shortly after Johnson announced he was leaving the program to explore other opportunities. It helped that Taron Vincent, unlike his brother, is a defensive lineman. He not only got to mature with Larry Johnson in proverbial orbit, but he learned to appreciate how his future position coach would make him a better defensive lineman.
Malik Barrow's arrival also helped. Barrow is another IMG Academy graduate who had just completed his first season with the program when Vincent committed last year. Vincent got to observe his development to get a better sense of how he himself could thrive in Columbus. It made the decision that much easier.
WHERE HE EXCELS
Taron Vincent is a welcome addition to Ohio State's recruiting class for a variety of reasons. He's importantly going to be vindication for Larry Johnson, who tried hard to woo the likes of Dexter Lawrence (Clemson) and Marvin Wilson (Florida State) to Ohio State only to see those prospects go elsewhere. This is the big fish Johnson had been chasing since he joined Ohio State's coaching staff in 2014.
In other words, Vincent is the most complete and overall best defensive tackle prospect Ohio State has signed since at least 2012 when Meyer took over the program. Ohio State has signed four-star prospects at the position since Meyer took over (e.g. Malik Barrow and Tommy Schutt) but Vincent might be the best defensive tackle prospect to come to Ohio State since Cameron Heyward in 2007.
Good defensive tackle prospects have lethal combinations of size and strength. Great defensive tackle prospects know how to use their hands to make the most of their size and strength. That's Taron Vincent.
That, more than anything else I could mention, is what stands out from his film. You're going to notice how fast he is off the line of scrimmage. He has exceptional burst for a 285-pounder. He has great closing speed and is deceptively powerful in a pass-rushing situation. He's even effective against double teams. Beyond that, watch how well he's using his hands. He makes first contact and creates separation from the blocker. It makes him that much more difficult.
Oh, and his spin move is bar none the best I've seen for anyone who has signed with Ohio State since 2008. He could be a nightmare for opposing offensive line coaches if he further develops that.
MUST WORK ON
Suggestions for where Taron Vincent could improve his game are going to focus at the margins of his skill set. For example, he's one of the most developed pass-rushing defensive tackles Ohio State has seen in some time but his ability as a run-stuffer is further along than this ability as a pass-rusher.
This, by the way, is true for 99% of even the great defensive tackle prospects. The ceiling is high — Ndamukong Suh high — but Vincent should focus on even better using his hands and further developing his pass-rushing arsenal.
One fundamental limitation with Vincent as a defensive tackle is he is never going to be the kind of 330-pounder who could squat in the trenches and occupy double-teams so other players on the line could win one-on-one matchups. That's fine, and Vincent is still capable against double teams, but it's a physical limitation.
Finally, he's also a bit on the shorter end. Taller offensive linemen with larger wingspans could more reliably get inside him off the snap. Alas, "get taller/longer" is not useful advice nor constructive feedback.
Much like Chase Young was so good, so talented, and that advanced as a true freshman to see the field even with the wealth of talent Ohio State had at defensive end in 2017, so too should Taron Vincent see the field as a true freshman in 2018. He'll be helped by the departure of guys like Michael Hill and Tracy Sprinkle. Ohio State has good talent at defensive tackle, but there are even fewer barriers for Vincent to seeing the field than there were for Chase Young last year.
Here are junior-year highlights of Taron Vincent.