JT Tuimoloau Ohio State Buckeyes Defensive End

Skill Level Being ‘Put To The Test’ For JT Tuimoloau This Season

There is an alternate timeline where Ohio State defensive end JT Tuimoloau turned pro after his junior season, went through the combine, was drafted in April, and is now in rookie minicamp for an NFL team.

Fortunately for the Buckeyes on this timeline, Tuimoloau turned the NFL down and chose to return for his senior season at Ohio State.

It was not a decision that was made lightly, nor one that seemed probable all that long ago. But after assessing all of his options, the choice became clear.

“There’s a lot that went into it. First I just had to take a step back mentally and just really look at it,” Tuimoloau said this spring. “When you’re young and your dream is right there, you’re so tempted to just go and get it. But once you look at it, for me, it was just the brotherhood here.

“And just me as a person, I felt like there was a lot more that I can improve on skill wise. And just where my body wanted to be, I feel like there’s a lot more I can do. The guys we had coming back played a huge role. You see how many of us came back. I think that just speaks volumes to who we are as as men and what this culture does to us.”

Of course, Tuimoloau wasn’t the only Buckeye who returned for his senior season. Fellow defensive linemen Jack Sawyer, Tyleik Williams, and Ty Hamilton all did the same thing. As did linebacker Cody Simon and defensive backs Denzel Burke, Jordan Hancock, and Lathan Ransom.

And that’s just the defensive side of the ball.

Now that he’s back, however, the process continues. JT Tuimoloau is a two-time First-Team All-Big Ten selection by the conference coaches, but he’s not resting on those laurels. He’s still got work to do.

“Just get leaner, twitchier. Continue to react quicker and not feel like I’m thinking out there. Just being able to just run around 24/7, every Saturday, every time we play on the field, and just just having that motor under me,” he said.

“For me, I feel like that starts here in the weight room. And then now we’re on phase two, where it starts on the field. And then after after spring ball, it goes back to square one and going back to that weight room and cleaning up areas and critiquing all the small things.”

With a full grasp on the defense, Tuimoloau can also be asked to do more. One of the things that Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles talked about early on in spring was the idea of playing a five-man front with Tuimoloau and Sawyer as outside linebackers.

Whatever kind of wrinkle Knowles wants to put in, Tuimoloau is ready to be a willing participant.

“Yeah, yeah, he’s really just putting my skill level to the test and just allowing me to grow more mentally and physically,” he said. “Just improving my IQ of the game at multiple areas of the field and continuing to grow as a player.”

When the preseason polls are released in August, the Buckeyes will likely be ranked No. 2 in the nation behind Georgia. Yet with all of the juniors who returned for their senior seasons, the expectations nationally and locally are that finishing No. 2 won’t be good enough this season.

That can be a lot of pressure for a team or any single individual player. Tuimoloau and his teammates aren’t worried about what people are saying, they’re only concerned with the path forward.

“I feel like all the pieces that we needed to come back, we came back,” he said. “Right now all we’re doing is trying to gel. Trying to get closer and have our bond be stronger than ever. A lot of people are looking at it as ‘Natty or bust,’ or you have no excuses. But I think for us, we’re just keeping it between these walls and just learning more of who we are as players and what makes us us and just continue to grow and develop.”

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