This is the second in a series looking at how the Buckeyes will be replacing their departed starters in 2024. Up next is the nose tackle spot vacated by redshirt sophomore Mike Hall.
As a redshirt sophomore in 2023, Mike Hall finished the season with 24 tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks. He started seven games for the Buckeyes this past season, splitting reps and starts at nose tackle with Ty Hamilton, who will return for his fifth season with the Buckeyes this year.
For his career, Hall leaves Ohio State with 45 career tackles, 10.0 career tackles for loss, and 6.0 career sacks. He had 4.5 sacks in his first five games in the 2022 season, and just 1.5 in the 19 games after. Injuries limited him throughout his career, but when he was healthy, he flashed playmaking potential.
Mike Hall and Ty Hamilton had split custody of the nose tackle position last year. Both players started seven games, with the duo sharing just one start on the season against Youngstown State in week two.
Along with his seven starts, Hamilton finished 10th on the team with 38 tackles, fourth with 4.5 tackles for loss, and tied for fourth with 2.0 sacks. Each of those numbers were better than Hall’s.
Hero Kanu saw action on defense in 12 of Ohio State’s 13 games last season, posting 10 tackles and a sack as a redshirt freshman. He got better as the season went on and became a more trusted piece of the Buckeye defense. True freshman Kayden McDonald also saw more action over the second half of the season. He was used in short-yardage situations on both offense and defense. McDonald played in seven games finishing with one tackle, which came in the backfield at Purdue.
Buckeye head coach Ryan Day said recently that OSU wants eight defensive ends and eight defensive tackles on the roster. They have those numbers, but if they want to also have four players at each defensive tackle spot, one of senior Tywone Malone, redshirt freshmen Jason Moore and Will Smith, Jr., or true freshman Eric Mensah will need to make the move.
Ty Hamilton is a fifth-year senior, so he’s not going to need too much time this spring. It will be a fantastic opportunity for talented youngsters Hero Kanu and Kayden McDonald to really establish themselves as viable options in the defensive line rotation. It is not difficult to imagine those two being the Mike Hall/Ty Hamilton of 2025.
Defensive line coach Larry Johnson teaches his tackles to play both nose and three-tech, so it won’t be a huge undertaking to find the right depth chart at nose tackle, but it is something to keep in mind. Part of spring practice will involve getting looks at both spots for just about everybody and then evaluating and learning from how the process went.
When you can replace last year’s part-time starter with the other part-time starter, you are already well ahead of the game. That’s the situation Ohio State is in with Ty Hamilton’s return. And not only do they have an experienced player returning at the position, he was productive and reliable. He hasn’t missed a game in the past three seasons and has been one of Ohio State’s best run defenders.
Hamilton didn’t start against Missouri in the Cotton Bowl, but in his 21 snaps against the Tigers he had six tackles, two tackles for loss, and a sack. Mike Hall got more snaps than Hamilton did last season, but Hamilton’s production sure seems to indicate the Buckeyes will once again be in good hands at nose tackle, especially if the young guys continue to develop as expected.