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Hello Nathan: “See the Buckeyes set to spark a more prolific pass rush in 2023, hopefully with Jack Sawyer taking a big step forward? They had three sacks combined against Michigan and Georgia, and 1.5 were from linebackers. Getting Mike Hall Jr. off a pitch count would be great, but more pressure off the defensive line would really help the corners. – Bill Hartranft, Boston
Hello Bill: …and tighter cover from the corners would really help the defensive line. That complementary nature has continued to elude OSU since Chase Young and Jeff Okudah posed for pictures on stage with Roger Goodell in 2020.
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Fair question, but. Would you be surprised to learn that Pro Football Focus’ rating system ranked OSU seventh in pass rush nationally last season? I was. Only once in the last five years has the defense averaged more than three sacks per game, and that was in 2019 when Young gutted the Big Ten.
At the end of the day, that’s the question we really ask ourselves. Will the Buckeyes have more sacks in 2023?
I think they will, but simply because all those defenders are getting better, not because they’re being “unleashed.”
I think you’re right in focusing on Sawyer as an edge rusher to set the tone, as opposed to JT Tuimoloau. The latter may be the overall superior player, but Sawyer can specialize in becoming a backcourt threat while Tuimoloau has a broader impact.
Mike Hall Jr. would have made All-America teams if he repeated his first half of the season in the last six games. He lost both snaps and momentum. He and Tyliek Williams gutting in – along with those Edge Rushers – can catch opponents in a maelstrom.
However, the key will come from continued pressure as Larry Johnson uses his rotations. The player to keep an eye on this spring is Kenyatta Jackson. He hardly played as a true freshman, but he was the No. 60 overall player in the 2022 class for a reason. It’s a trajectory that looks very much like Hall’s path on paper.
I can also point to many plays from last season when defensive linemen were a mere bat from getting their hands on a quarterback. You can calculate what happens when improved cornerback play results in that quarterback holding the ball one shot longer.
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