Finally healthy, Taron Vincent eager to make impact on Buckeyes defensive line
Taron Vincent believes his time is now.
Ranked as the top defensive tackle by 247Sports in the 2018 recruiting class, the junior has had his career hampered by injuries. A shoulder injury derailed his 2019 season and carried over to last year.
But now he’s healthy and seemingly poised for a breakout season.
“I'm back to my regular self,” Vincent said. “I was the No. 1 D-tackle for a reason. I'm finally healthy. I'm ready to compete and go to work with my guys. My body feels great and my mind feels great.”
He said he turned the corner physically late last season. Vincent drew praise from coach Ryan Day during spring practice and has continued that momentum.
“Taron Vincent has really had a great camp,” defensive line coach Larry Johnson said.
Vincent is part of a deep group of interior linemen for the Buckeyes. Haskell Garrett is a preseason All-American based on his breakthrough 2020 season. Antwaun Jackson and Jerron Cage are the other veterans, and several young players are pushing to join the rotation.
But Vincent could be a difference-maker if he stays healthy. Johnson has his interior linemen training to play both nose guard and the three-technique tackle. Garrett said a duo with him and Vincent in the middle of the defensive line could be “very special.”
“I think we're a crazy duo,” Vincent said. “He's my guy. We know how to play off each other, so it'd be great.”
Taron, son of NFL pro bowler Troy Vincent, ready for big role
Vincent, listed at 6 feet 2 and 305 pounds, is the son of former five-time NFL Pro Bowl defensive back Troy Vincent. He credits his mother’s side of the family for his size. But his father’s guidance has been instrumental to his football development. It has also been crucial in helping him cope with injuries.
“Injuries definitely get you down," Vincent said, "but I’ve talked with my dad, who’ll tell me, ‘Hey, man, it's part of football. You can't even be sad about it. You've just got to keep pushing.’”
It helps that Vincent is an upbeat guy by nature.
“I woke up and I'm breathing and so I can't even be mad at it,” he said of the injuries. “Not everybody can say that, so I'm just grateful. I can't just be sitting around sulking all day. The sun is going to keep shining, so that’s how I look at it.”
Five-star freshmen Jack Sawyer, J.T. Tuimoloau update
Johnson tried to pump the brakes a bit on the idea that his two five-star freshmen defensive ends could make an immediate impact.
There’s every expectation that Jack Sawyer and J.T. Tuimoloau will become stars. But Johnson cautioned that the adjustment from high school to college is a major one. In addition, Sawyer elected, coming off a knee injury, not to play his senior season at Pickerington North. Tuimoloau arrived just last month after his extended recruitment.
“It's just still a learning process for them,” Johnson said. “There are some growing pains they have to go through.”
Don’t interpret that as disappointment by Johnson.
“I'm really happy where they are right now in terms of where their work is,” Johnson said. “(They have) great work habits. They're great students of the game.”
Johnson praised Tuimoloau for arriving on campus in excellent shape physically. He said that has given him a chance to compete early. Johnson said he’s also impressed with his football IQ.
“He really understands the game,” he said. “And he's a video guy. He's a study guy. I think that's why he's starting to advance so fast. He's got some (physical) things that you have to have if you want to be an elite player, but his work ethic is off the chart.”
Johnson said the two freshmen have different body types that can serve as effective complements. At 6-4 and 275 pounds, Tuimoloau is thicker and more physical.
“He has great lower body strength,” Johnson said. “Jack is a finesse guy. He will find a way to beat you. And he's a highly competitive guy. That's what I like about both of those guys.”
The freshmen have also impressed their teammates.
“They work hard,” senior defensive end Tyreke Smith said. “They’re great kids. They're cool to be around. They’re going to be great.”
Garrett has taken Tuimoloau, a fellow Polynesian, under his belt.
“He kind of reminds me of me when I was a freshman, just trying to soak up everything and just learn," Garrett said. "He just wants to be the best person he can be, on and off the field.”