JT Tuimoloau and Jack Sawyer

Spring Preview: Ohio State Defensive Ends Just Getting Started


The Buckeyes return their top five defensive ends from last season, losing just second-year player Omari Abor to the transfer portal. JT Tuimoloau and Jack Sawyer both chose to put the NFL on hold and return for their senior seasons. Both Kenyatta Jackson and Caden Curry would start in many other places, and yet both chose to return to Ohio State for their junior seasons. Mitchell Melton is seen as a pass-rush specialist. Joshua Mickens played once last year as a true freshman. Five-star freshman Eddrick Houston will look to make some noise immediately.

Scholarship Roster

Jack Sawyer, Sr, 6-4 265
Has led the Buckeyes in sacks each of the past two years.
JT Tuimoloau, Sr, 6-4 270
First-Team All-Big Ten selection each of the past two years.
Kenyatta Jackson, rSoph, 6-5 258
Played the third-most snaps among defensive ends last year.
Caden Curry, Jr, 6-3 260
Finished with 3.5 tackles for loss and also played some fullback.
Mitchell Melton, rSr, 6-3 253
Has battled injuries but staff loves his pass-rushing potential.
Joshua Mickens, rFr, 6-5 236
Redshirted last year after enrolling in June and playing in just one game.
Eddrick Houston, Fr, 6-3 275
Five-star defensive end made signing day an adventure.

For Starters

Few teams return the experience that Ohio State does at defensive end this season. JT Tuimoloau has 28 career starts to his credit, starting every game for the Buckeyes the past two years, and twice as a true freshman in 2021. Jack Sawyer is coming off of his first season as a starter. He also finished third among defensive ends in snaps as a sophomore in 2022. Together, the pair have combined for 41 starts, 168 tackles, 42 tackles for loss, 24.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, and two interceptions. Both will be All-Big Ten candidates at the very least.

New Additions

True freshman Eddrick Houston is the only new addition this spring, but he is quite the addition. “We feel like he’s an impact player day one,” head coach Ryan Day said back in December as he sweated out Houston’s decision to sign with Ohio State or somewhere else. He was the No. 5 edge rusher in the 2024 recruiting class. There should be plenty of reps available for him this spring because Jack Sawyer and JT Tuimoloau won’t need them. True freshman Dominic Kirks will arrive in the summer, but he may ultimately end up at defensive tackle.

Spring Depth Chart

44JT Tuimoloau
33Jack Sawyer
97Kenyatta Jackson
92Caden Curry
17Mitchell Melton
52Joshua Mickens
NAEddrick Houston

Let’s not get hung up on strong side vs. weak side just yet. There is a clear delineation here, and it starts with JT Tuimoloau and Jack Sawyer as the starting pair, then right behind them are Kenyatta Jackson and Caden Curry as the backup pair.

What’s The Latest?

Ryan Day hired Brandon Jordan as a defensive line assistant earlier this month. He is not one of the 10 countable coaches, but he has the bonafides of over 200 NFL defensive linemen who have utilized his services as a private coach before joining Mel Tucker’s Michigan State staff in 2022. He was with the Seattle Seahawks last year and was well thought of. Jordan is known as a “pass rush specialist” who has worked with former Buckeye Cam Heyward, former Wolverine Rashan Gary, as well as Jadeveon Clowney, Von Miller, TJ Watt, and many, many others. It will be interesting to see what Jordan’s impact is on an Ohio State defense that finished 60th in sacks last season.


This spring should be a fantastic opportunity for Joshua Mickens and Eddrick Houston to get as many reps as they can handle. Jack Sawyer and JT Tuimoloau won’t exactly go through the motions, but defensive line coach Larry Johnson will pull them from drills through spring camp because there isn’t really much need to work them too hard. Even though Kenyatta Jackson is heading into his third season, this will only be his second spring. He and Caden Curry can expect starters reps this spring.

One Question Needing An Answer

Will we see the Jack this spring? Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles went without his hybrid defensive end/linebacker position entirely last year after installing it when he arrived in 2022. But even in the spring of 2022 there wasn’t much of a Jack package installed. This year, however, the Buckeyes have an experienced defense and veteran options at the position. They all know the defense now, so they’re much further ahead than they’ve been the past two years. Could they install it this spring and get a look at Mitchell Melton and CJ Hicks — the two guys Knowles said were at the top of the board last year? Or do they simply go on without it and talk it out during the summer? Linebackers coach James Laurinaitis said it’s still in the plans. But how soon?

Breakout Candidate

In an alternate universe, JT Tuimoloau and Jack Sawyer both left for the NFL after last season, and despite the loss, the expectations were still quite high for the defensive line because Kenyatta Jackson and Caden Curry both returned. This is not an overly deep group of defensive ends, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a better top four than what the Buckeyes will have this season. With Curry and Jackson both one year older, one year better, and experienced enough to have a loaded toolbox, don’t be surprised if they are both the talk of camp by mid-April.


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