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Bold Predictions: J.T. Tuimoloau will lead Ohio State in sacks this year

It won’t take the five-star defensive end to start terrorizing quarterbacks around the Big Ten.

Brandon Huffman, 247Sports

All this week, LGHL writers will be bring you articles focusing on their biggest and boldest predictions. Check out all of our “Bold Predictions” articles throughout the week HERE. Whether you disagree, let us know what you think in the comments below and on Twitter @Landgrant33.

Ohio State has put together quite a run of bringing some of the best defensive ends in the country to Columbus. It all really started when Urban Meyer lured Joey Bosa to Columbus, and soon little brother Nick Bosa followed. Chase Young made his way to Ohio State in 2017, and Zach Harrison was seen as the heir apparent to Young when he joined the Buckeyes in 2019.

With all the talent Ohio State has amassed on defense over the last two decades, it’s wild that defensive end J.T. Tuimoloau is the highest-rated defensive prospect the Buckeyes have signed since 2000. Tuimoloau committed to Ohio State earlier this month as the nation’s top prospect according to some recruiting services. Aside from the Buckeyes, Tuimoloau was considering USC, Oregon, and Washington.

While sometimes incoming freshmen need time to adjust to playing their position at the college level, that doesn’t seem to be the case at defensive end. Some of the great Ohio State defensive ends over the last decade have been able to contribute from day one. The Bosa brothers, Young, and Harrison all recorded at least 3.5 sacks as true freshmen. Joey Bosa had the highest sack total as a freshman of the quartet, registering 7.5 sacks in 2013.

Ohio State is able to see their freshmen defensive ends step in early and make an impact since they have tremendous depth at the position. Usually Ohio State has 4 to 6 defensive ends that they like to try and rotate during a game, allowing the ends to stay fresher and put more pressure on opposing quarterbacks since they have been able to wear down the offensive line of opponents. Aside from last year’s shortened season, Ohio State has recorded less than 30 sacks in just one season since 2013.

This year should be no different when it comes to Ohio State putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Harrison and Tyreke Smith look to be the starters at the end positions, but plenty of other Buckeyes will see time on the field in 2021. Upperclassmen Tyler Friday and Javontae Jean-Baptiste are key players in the rotation, while local product Jack Sawyer is another highly touted freshman.

It is truly amazing that a team has a five-star recruit like Jack Sawyer joining the mix, but Sawyer isn’t even the most anticipated player coming to Columbus at his position. That should tell you just how good Tuimoloau is. Quarterbacks around the Big Ten have to be frightened that they not only have to try and avoid Sawyer, Tuimoloau, and the rest of Ohio State’s defensive ends this year, they’ll also have at least two more years of Sawyer and Tuimoloau wrecking havoc in the scarlet and gray.

There’s no doubt that all eyes will be on Tuimoloau when he takes the field for Ohio State. To some the prediction that Tuimoloau will lead the team in sacks as a freshman might not seem all that bold, it makes more sense when looking at some of the high-profile defensive end recruits that have to come to Columbus recently.

Joey Bosa came close to leading Ohio State in sacks as a freshman, but he fell half a sack short of tying Noah Spence for the team lead. Nick Bosa recorded a respectable five sacks in 2016, which was a year in which the Buckeyes recorded just 28 . Chase Young wasn’t an immediate terror in Columbus, as evidenced by 3.5 sacks in 2017. Zach Harrison recorded the same number of sacks as a freshman in 2019 as Young did when he was a freshman.

In high school, Tuimoloau was definitely the big fish in a small pond. Now that he is in Columbus, he is still a big fish, he just has some other big fish to help him attack opposing offenses. At least early on, I don’t see Tuimoloau seeing as many snaps as Harrison, Smith, and some of the other defensive ends, but he’ll certainly make an impact when he gets his chance.

Just imagine the conundrum for opponents when Ohio State trots out the “Rushmen” package. An offensive line trying to slow down any combination of Zach Harrison, Tyreke Smith, Jack Sawyer, and J.T. Tuimoloau. I’m just glad that I’ll be rooting for the team with all those talented defensive ends, and not cursing my team’s inability to block whichever defensive ends the Buckeyes trot out there.

So how many sacks do I see Tuimoloau getting as a freshman? Maybe I’m drinking too much of the Kool-Aid, but I really do think we see him getting 8 to 10 sacks this fall. The season might start slow for Tuimoloau as he is still adjusting to life with his teammates and coaches since he didn’t sign until July. But once he gets more comfortable on the field, things could get rolling rather quickly. I think it’s going to be a true joy to watch Tuimoloau at defensive end for the next 3-4 years.