Ohio State football notes: DE J.T. Tuimoloau flashes potential in preseason camp; Sevyn Banks injured
J.T. Tuimoloau’s offseason program at Ohio State has been condensed.
Unlike other freshmen who enrolled in January ahead of spring practice or at the start of the summer semester, the coveted defensive end prospect didn’t arrive until last month.
It was the result of a prolonged recruitment. Tuimoloau held off until the Fourth of July before settling on a college destination, affording him the chance to visit schools in June after the NCAA lifted a recruiting dead period that had been in place since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite the late start, Tuimoloau has impressed the Buckeyes’ coaching staff through the first five practices of preseason training camp.
Coach Ryan Day said he has received a lot of positive feedback from defensive line coach Larry Johnson and others who have been in meetings with him.
“Also, what I see on the field is tremendous attention to detail,” Day said. “Very conscientious, takes a lot of notes, can take a meeting to the field in short order, and so because of that, he's made up a lot of ground in a very short amount of time.”
The development of Tuimoloau took on greater urgency last week when Day announced that senior Tyler Friday is likely to miss the season with an undisclosed injury.
Friday’s absence leaves the Buckeyes without a veteran in their defensive end rotation, putting Tuimoloau or fellow freshman and former five-star recruit Jack Sawyer in position to get some snaps this fall.
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Outside of Javontae Jean-Baptiste, there aren’t many obvious candidates to spell either Zach Harrison or Tyreke Smith, the Buckeyes’ likely starting defensive ends.
Sawyer made his splash in spring practice and finished with three sacks in the spring game. Tuimoloau didn't have that same opportunity, but has made a fast adjustment in the last week.
It’s been clear in Day’s eyes.
“He's flashed,” Day said. “He's learning. He still has moments where he's still not sure exactly where to go or what to do. But you can see certainly the flashes and brilliance of a 272-pound defensive end who can run. But then when he does kind of know exactly what he's doing, he's made a lot of plays, and we're having a hard time blocking him."
Steele Chambers sticking at linebacker
Steele Chambers’ position switch to linebacker is a permanent one.
Chambers, who spent his first two seasons with the Buckeyes at running back before moving at the start of preseason camp, will remain on the defensive side of the ball.
“The guys on defense have been very, very impressed right from the jump,” Day said. “You can usually tell right away if somebody's just natural at it. He is. And he's very, very athletic. So he's really upgraded that room.”
It’s not the first time that Chambers has been at linebacker.
Before joining the Buckeyes in 2019, Chambers played the position in high school at Blessed Trinity Catholic in Roswell, Georgia.
His experience, which has made for a smoother transition, could also help him see the field this season.
Day, on Monday, pointed to the possibility.
“I hope that he can provide depth early in the season and grow into a more consistent role as the season goes on,” Day said. “As you watch film, it's all new to him. So we have to be fair. He needs a ton of reps. But I think every rep that you invest in, you're going to get back, because not only is he intelligent, he has the skill set to do it.”
Black stripe lost for Denzel Burke
Following Saturday’s practice, cornerback Denzel Burke became the first freshman to lose his black helmet stripe during preseason camp, a rite of passage for newcomers into the program.
“You can't tell he's a freshman,” Day said. “He walked in and competed right when he stepped on that field. He takes it very, very seriously. He's got the right approach.”
Day added that Burke embraces matchups with Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, the team’s top wide receivers.
“He doesn't back down,” he said.
Five others from the class of 2021 shed their stripe in spring practice in April.
Sevyn Banks sidelined
Cornerback Sevyn Banks has been held out of the last couple of practices after he “tweaked something.”
Day didn’t offer additional details, but indicated that Banks would not be sidelined much longer.
“We're excited to see him get into practice,” Day said, “because he had a really good summer and we're expecting big things from him this year.”
Banks was also out during spring practice with an unspecified injury.