JT Tuimoloau Ohio State Buckeyes Defensive End

Piecing Together The Ohio State Depth Chart On Defense

The Buckeyes wrapped up spring practice on Saturday with the annual spring game.

Generally, coaches want to know what they have by now and who they can count on. The more they can count on a particular player, the higher up the depth chart they will be.

With camp now over, it’s time to attempt to put together Ohio State’s current depth chart on defense, and do it before the transfer portal really gets going this week and changes some of these projections.

So let’s get started before this is outdated.

[See: Piecing Together The Offensive Depth Chart]

Defensive End

33 Jack Sawyer, Sr
97 Kenyatta Jackson, rSoph OR
17 Mitchell Melton, rSr
52 Joshua Mickens, rFr

The Buckeyes have five defensive ends that would be starting at an awful lot of places, and three of them are listed above. Jack Sawyer will attempt to pick up where he left off at the end of last season. Mitchell Melton may be the quickest of the defensive ends. He could also factor in at the Jack position, should defensive coordinator Jim Knowles choose to employ it. Kenyatta Jackson is due for his best season as a Buckeye.

Three Tech

91 Tyleik Williams, Sr
94 Jason Moore, rFr OR
95 Tywone Malone, rJr OR
53 Will Smith, Jr., rFr
90 Eric Mensah, Fr

You may see Eric Mensah at nose tackle in order to even up the numbers here. Tyleik Williams is slated for an All-Big Ten season. Behind him are a handful of talented but inexperienced players. Defensive line coach Larry Johnson mentioned Jason Moore’s name quite a bit a few weeks back. Moore made some plays in the spring game. Somebody (or two) needs to step up here to give Williams some rest during the season.

Nose Tackle

58 Ty Hamilton, rSr
93 Hero Kanu, rSoph OR
98 Kayden McDonald, Soph

The Buckeyes feel good about all three of these guys. Ty Hamilton has been a consistent player, and that won’t change this year. Hero Kanu and Kayden McDonald are young but both had their moments last season. Those moments will begin to expand this year.

Defensive End

44 JT Tuimoloau, Sr
92 Caden Curry, Jr
96 Eddrick Houston, Fr

Eddrick Houston is probably going to be one of those young guys that the coaches will want to play early in the season to give vets like JT Tuimoloau an easier September so that they won’t be worn down in December and January. The Buckeyes played four defensive ends last year, but Tuimoloau and Jack Sawyer played 3-4 times more snaps than Curry and Kenyatta Jackson. That can’t happen this year.

Will Linebacker

11 CJ Hicks, Jr
6 Sonny Styles, Jr
23 Garrett Stover, Fr
37 Nigel Glover, rFr
2 Kourt Williams, rSr (Inj.)

Sonny Styles finally made the move to linebacker and spent the spring with the twos mostly. He will be on the field plenty this year, but you may see him in different spots from snap to snap. CJ Hicks started the spring with the ones and that’s where he finished it. Jim Knowles said that Hicks is “much better” when he is blitzing or directed, which implies that there are other areas of his game that aren’t to that level yet.

Mike Linebacker

30 Cody Simon, Sr
36 Gabe Powers, rSoph
20 Arvell Reese, Soph
28 Payton Pierce, Fr (Inj.)

Any time you can replace a starting middle linebacker with a former starting middle linebacker, you are already ahead of the game. Cody Simon didn’t need as much work this spring, which allowed Gabe Powers and Arvell Reese to get more reps than they would have otherwise. Powers’ improvement from this time last year to now has been one of the topics of camp. It may be just in time.

Sam Linebacker

6 Sonny Styles, Jr
11 CJ Hicks, Jr

When you have athletes like Sonny Styles and CJ Hicks, you can afford to play three linebackers at times. This won’t be their base package but it will be part of the arsenal.

Nickel Back

7 Jordan Hancock, Sr
4 Lorenzo Styles, Jr., rJr OR
24 Jermaine Mathews, Soph
13 Miles Lockhart, Fr

Lorenzo Styles, Jr. was having a very good camp before suffering an injury that ended his spring. He’ll be back soon enough. Sophomore Jermaine Mathews, Jr. is the number three cornerback on the team, so it’s pretty significant that they wanted to get him work in the nickel. Last fall, Jim Knowles didn’t want to do that to Mathews because he was just a freshman and he didn’t want to ask too much of him. Now they are much more comfortable asking him to do whatever they need.

Miles Lockhart breaks up a pass for Bryson Rodgers


10 Denzel Burke, Sr
24 Jermaine Mathews, Jr., Soph
12 Bryce West, Fr (Inj.)

If Denzel Burke had gone pro and Jermaine Mathews was listed as a starter here, he would be contending for All-Big Ten status. He’s a playmaker who will be a very involved piece of this Ohio State defense. Denzel Burke got better this spring because he spent it working on his flaws.

Free Safety

4 Caleb Downs, Soph
25 Malik Hartford, Soph (Inj.)
18 Jaylen McClain, Fr

Malik Hartford was held out this spring, which allowed true freshman Jaylen McClain to step in. He was impressive from his very first practice. So much so that redshirt freshman free safety Cedrick Hawkins hit the portal on Tuesday. Caleb Downs got better and better as the defense became more and more familiar to him. Over the last 5-6 practices, coaches began seeing things really click with Downs.

Strong Safety

8 Lathan Ransom, rSr
3 Ja’Had Carter, rSr
21 Jayden Bonsu, rFr

With Lathan Ransom held out out of the physical stuff for precautionary reasons as he returns from an injury suffered last season, and Ja’Had Carter also dealing with injury, it was redshirt freshman Jayden Bonsu that worked with the ones during spring practice. It was like the understudy being called up for a weekend performance. He handled his business fairly well.


1 Davison Igbinosun, Jr
22 Calvin Simpson-Hunt, rFr
5 Aaron Scott, Fr

Davison Igbinosun had Carnell Tate locked down in the end zone a couple of times in the spring game. That wasn’t the first time he’s been latched to a receiver this spring. He should be one of the best players in the Big Ten this year. Calvin Simpson-Hunt got a lot of work this spring, which was his first spring as a Buckeye. True freshman Aaron Scott got snaps with the twos during the second half of camp when Jermaine Mathews, Jr. moved to nickel. The former five-star was precisely as advertised.

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