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Tommy Togiai and the Ohio State defensive line are embracing their time to shine

Last year’s defensive line was dominated by performances from Chase Young. Now the talented unit is showing there is strength in numbers.

Ohio State v Penn State Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Ohio State knew they had a huge void to fill on the defensive line after Chase Young declared for the NFL Draft. Last year Young broke the program’s single-season record with 16.5 sacks, and was named a Heisman Trophy finalist. Defensive end Zach Harrison has been tabbed as the next great Buckeye defensive line, and Harrison had a great game against Penn State on Saturday night.

Harrison’s efforts were overshadowed by another defensive lineman. Tommy Togiai, who coming into Saturday night’s game had zero career sacks, was a menace in the Penn State backfield, sacking Sean Clifford three times. Togiai’s efforts earned him Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors.

Togiai credits his breakout performance on the work he has done during his time in Columbus with defensive line coach Larry Johnson. The area Togiai felt benefited him the most against Penn State was his get-off in terms of pass rush. The energy and high motor that Togiai believes he brings to the defense was on full display in State College on Saturday.

While Togiai isn’t going to record three sacks every week, the junior gives the Buckeye defensive line a veteran presence along with Haskell Garrett and Jonathon Cooper to try and make up for the loss of Young. The bond between Togiai and Garrett is especially strong because of their Polynesian heritage.

“Tommy 3 Sacks” might be soft-spoken and humble, but he is letting his play speak for him. Togiai has been one of the most improved Buckeyes so far this season, and is asserting himself as a leader of a defensive line that has tremendous depth and has the possibility to be one of the best units in the country.

Last year’s Ohio State defensive line was fun to watch because of the star power that we saw from Chase Young. This year’s Buckeye front might be even more entertaining to watch because there are so many talented defensive linemen working hard to make a name for themselves.

The season got off to a bit of a slow start for the defensive line against Nebraska. That certainly wasn’t the case on Saturday night against Penn State, with Togiai recording three sacks, while Zach Harrison and Jonathon Cooper each made a number of plays in the backfield. This week we could see some other defensive linemen step up to make some huge plays. Throughout the year we could see different players make plays each week, which is a fun mystery to watch unravel.

Waiting in the wings for their time to shine are guys like Tyler Friday, Javontae Jean-Baptiste, and Tyreke Smith. As if the depth of the defensive line wasn’t strong enough, they received a boost last week with the return of defensive tackle Taron Vincent, who is recovering from a shoulder injury that sidelined him last year. The plethora of talent on the defensive line will become even more evident as the weeks go on. The Buckeyes will be able to throw fresher defensive linemen at teams who might be tired and wounded on the offensive line.

Ohio State fans saw the improvement of the defensive line from the first game of the season to last week’s game against Penn State. That improvement and impact on the game should only increase as the season moves on and guys get more comfortable in their roles. While there isn’t a stud on the defensive line like Young or one of the Bosa brothers, there definitely is power in numbers.