Top Ohio State recruit Jack Sawyer embraces pressure of becoming next great Buckeye DE

Bill Rabinowitz
Buckeye Xtra
Jack Sawyer (40) decided in August that he would sit out his senior season at Pickerington North to concentrate on being in the best shape when he enrolls at Ohio State in January.

Jack Sawyer knows the pressure that will be on him.

He’s the top-rated player in Ohio State’s banner 2021 recruiting class, a local kid who projects to be next great Buckeye defensive end.

“I love that expectation,” Sawyer said. “I love that. You know that the bar is set so high. The bar is to be great.”

Sawyer, who stands almost 6 feet 6 and weighs 250 pounds, is the No. 3 overall player nationally in the’s composite rankings. The Buckeyes’ class is ranked second nationally behind Alabama but has a higher per-player ranking than the Crimson Tide.

Sawyer is especially eager to enroll in January after choosing not to play his senior season at Pickerington North. He made the decision in August, when the season was in doubt, to concentrate on his training.

“From a competitor standpoint, I definitely wanted to strap up and go out and play,” Sawyer said. “It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. It was tough for me at first to stick with it, but I knew deep down inside it was the best thing for me.”

Sawyer has been training intensely. He changed his diet to one based on protein and fruits and vegetables. He’s even grown to like spinach.

Sawyer said he has added about 15 pounds of muscle while cutting his body fat index.

“Honestly, I feel the best I’ve ever felt in my life,” he said. “I feel like I’m faster, way more explosive, way stronger and haven’t lost a step. I’ve gained speed and explosiveness and agility.”

Sawyer tore a medial collateral knee ligament last season. He said he’s fully recovered from it and won’t be limited when he gets to Ohio State.

“Most days, I wake up and forget I even had surgery on it,” Sawyer said. “I don’t feel it at all anymore.”

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Sawyer comes from an athletic family. His dad, Lyle, went to Findlay College as a football player. His mom, Michelle Shade Sawyer, was a star basketball player at Pickerington. Her father played in the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system.

Sawyer said his development and competitiveness benefited from playing in the Pickerington youth sports program that has produced many top players. By the time he got to high school, he had grown to 6-4 and the scholarship offers started coming.

Sawyer committed to Ohio State in February 2019 and helped to build the class into what could be the highest-ranked ever at Ohio State. The pandemic has prevented his future teammates from making visits to campus, but Sawyer said they’ve found other ways to connect.

“We’re very close,” he said. “It's a very unique class because I think we talk just about every day.”

Sawyer said there’s a common goal with the incoming recruits.

“We’ve got the best class in the country, and the expectations are super high for us as a class — win a Big Ten championship and win the national championship, if not multiple of those two.

“We all embrace that. We all want to get in there and put our heads down and get to work and let our work do the talking.”

Joining a program that has produced defensive ends such as Joey and Nick Bosa and Chase Young, that’s a good mindset.

“It makes me want to work harder each and every day,” Sawyer said. “I believe in (defensive line) coach (Larry) Johnson. I believe in (strength) coach Mick (Marotti). I believe in coach (Ryan) Day.

“Honestly, if I work as hard as I can, I think I should be able to get to a level of the Bosas and Chase Young. So really, I don’t feel a whole lot of pressure. I use that pressure in a good way to make me work that much harder.”


Blue-chip linemen

A look at the national recruiting rankings of Ohio State defensive linemen in recent years:

2021: Jack Sawyer, Pickerington North, defensive end, No. 3 overall, No. 3 DE

2020: Darrion Henry, Cincinnati (Princeton), defensive tackle, No. 154 overall, No. 16 DT

2019: Zach Harrison, Olentangy Orange, end, No. 12 overall, No. 2 DE

2018: Taron Vincent, Bradenton, Fla., tackle, No. 20 overall, No. 1 DT; Tyreke Smith, Cleveland Heights, end, No. 34 overall, No. 4 DE; Tyler Friday, Ramsey, N.J., tackle, No. 93 overall, No. 6 DT

2017: Chase Young, Hyattsville, Md., end, No. 7 overall, No. 2 DE; Haskell Garrett, Las Vegas, tackle, No. 68 overall, No. 6 DT

2016: Nick Bosa, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., end, No. 8 overall, No. 1 DE; Jonathon Cooper, Gahanna, end, No. 33 overall, No. 3 DE

2015: Jashon Cornell, St. Paul, Minn., end, No. 95 overall, No. 7 DE

2014: Jalyn Holmes, Norfolk, Va., end, No. 76 overall, No. 4 DE; Sam Hubbard, Cincinnati (Moeller), end, No. 192 overall, No. 13 DE

2013: Joey Bosa, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., end, No. 37 overall, No. 4 DE; Tyquan Lewis, Tarboro, N.C., end, No. 293 overall, No. 10 DE