The Buckeyes will have six scholarship defensive tackles available this spring. They lose starter Taron Vincent and reserve Jerron Cage from last season, but return three of their top four players in terms of snap counts. Mike Hall was a standout when healthy as a redshirt freshman nose tackle. Ty Hamilton eventually took over there and started the final four games of the year. Tyleik Williams may have more potential than any of them but apparently hasn’t shown the consistency required yet. Hero Kanu is a redshirt freshman still learning the game, but already possesses strength and power.
Mike Hall, rSoph, 6-2 290
When healthy he was one of the most disruptive players in the Big Ten.
Ty Hamilton, Jr, 6-3 294
Earned raves from coaches after taking over for Mike Hall at nose tackle.
Tyleik Williams, Jr, 6-3 318
An explosive tackle who is still looking for consistent snaps.
Jaden McKenzie, rSr, 6-2 286
Has only played in a handful of games over his first four years.
Hero Kanu, rFr, 6-4 305
Big and strong, but still looking for a position.
Will Smith Jr, Fr, 6-3 285
A Buckeye legacy who has enrolled early and possesses plenty of promise.
Mike Hall and Ty Hamilton combined for nine starts at nose tackle last year, which begs the question of who starts there this year. That question will start to be answered this spring. Right now, positions are still up in the air in terms of who will be a nose tackle and who will be a three tech. Hall can clearly do both. So can others. Defensive line coach Larry Johnson has to figure out where Hero Kanu factors in as well. The only position that may truly be set is Ty Hamilton at nose tackle.
Ohio State legacy Will Smith, Jr. doesn’t play the same position as his late father, who was an All-American defensive end for the Buckeyes 20 years ago, but he has a better understanding than most of what it takes to play at this level. Smith was a three-star prospect who earned an Ohio State offer and never stopped getting better. It may take more than one spring for Smith to make some noise, but it won’t be for lack of trying.
Spring Depth Chart
|51||Mike Hall, rSoph|
|58||Ty Hamilton, rJr|
|91||Tyleik Williams, Jr|
|93||Hero Kanu, rFr|
|90||Jaden McKenzie, rSr|
|NA||Will Smith Jr., Fr|
What’s the Latest?
The Buckeyes have a pair of third-year tackles in Mike Hall and Tyleik Williams who weren’t able to play as much as they wanted last year. For Hall, an injury held him back for over half the season. All of his tackles for loss and sacks came in the Buckeyes’ first six games. Hall is healthy now and is just getting started. Williams, meanwhile, was the No. 2 three tech last year behind starter Taron Vincent. With Vincent off to pursue an NFL future, the time is now for Williams. He has yet to put everything together in terms of talent, effort, and conditioning. No more excuses from here on out. Every opportunity that he’s wanted is right in front of him.
Spring ball will feature everybody playing everywhere. Just because Mike Hall was a nose tackle on Tuesday doesn’t mean he will be on Thursday. Johnson and the rest of the Ohio State defensive coaches will be trying to find everybody’s most-productive position, which can change over the course of 15 practices. By the end of spring camp, the Buckeyes may still be up in the air about who is playing where, but they’ll have a much better idea than they did going in.
One Question Needing An Answer
Can Mike Hall and Tyleik Williams play next to each other on more than just passing downs, and what happens if they can? Hall sacked the quarterback four times in eight snaps in a game against Michigan State. Williams has the first step of a jack rabbit and led the team with 5.0 sacks as a true freshman in 2021. Surely, these two can coexist, right?
It is always interesting to hear players talk about other players who are making plays in practice. The same with coaches. When names are brought up without being prompted, that’s really when you should take note. That was Mike Hall a year ago. Don’t be shocked if it’s Tyleik Williams this year. Yes, everybody knows him, and they saw him break out a bit as a true freshman in 2021, but it’s not really a breakout if you’re still behind a glass wall entering year three. Hero Kanu is another solid candidate who hasn’t played the game long enough to have bad habits. He only gets by with how he was taught to play the game.