COLUMBUS, Ohio ― Ohio State has one newcomer looking to make up for a false start to his career, and another is looking for a head start.
Either way, both of the strong, athletic defensive tackles arrived right on time for the Buckeyes, coming to help at a position of need and with a full spring to bolster the line as a whole.
And no matter where they came from or how long the path was to Ohio State, now that Antwaun Jackson and Tommy Togiai are in the fold, it’s officially time to get to work.
“I see this as a great opportunity to really show what I can do,” Togiai said. “I just want to prove that I can play and everything.
“I would say I’m just going to work as hard as I can through spring ball and then get to fall camp and try to get on the field as much as I can. I’ll try to do my best.”
That figures to be more than enough to help Togiai crack the rotation even as a freshman, thanks in large part to his early enrollment after Ohio State expanded its recruiting trail to Idaho because of his enormous potential.
The process for Jackson, meanwhile, covered some more familiar ground ― although in this case it was retreading it after coming up short for his signature the first time when he signed with Auburn instead. That situation never proved comfortable for Jackson, who has had no problem admitting that the Buckeyes and position coach Larry Johnson stayed on his mind leading up to his transfer and during a year spent in junior college, which opened the door for a mulligan with the reigning Big Ten champions.
So, while those recruitments may not have had all that much in common, they were motivated by the same goal. Ohio State lost key veteran Tracy Sprinkle as well as Michael Hill after last season and needed an influx of size, strength and ability in the trenches. The Buckeyes went out and targeted the best available players on the market.
“Everybody here, they push each other and that’s what I like about here,” Jackson said. “They push each other. We all love each other, we don’t try to not help each other out because we’re competing for this position. With the younger guys coming in, the older guys, they help them out. And that’s the No. 1 thing here, really close. … They’re all trying to be the best they can.
“I think I belong here. I believe in this team and I love it here.”
Jackson obviously didn’t take the direct route to Ohio State, but any hard feelings should be definitively in the past now.
And at this point, the only lingering issue is the left foot fracture that had him in walking boot when he enrolled this winter and forced him to miss mat drills during offseason conditioning. Jackson is expected to be healthy in time to participate in the majority of spring camp, if not all of it. And that’s certainly a bonus for somebody who isn’t looking for another stumble out of the starting blocks in his career.
“I’m just ready to get off these crutches,” Jackson joked. “I missed the first mat drill of the day and I was kind of mad at myself because I was not here and stuff. I feel like I need to be out here and be ready for spring ball so I can contribute to the team.
“It’s crazy, just all this talent coming back and just improving from last year. When I was at Blinn [Community College], I tried to watch every game just trying to be better than them, to be honest. Be better than all the Joey Bosas and Tyquan Lewis and Sam Hubbards and all that stuff. Just try to be better than them.”
That standard is certainly pretty high on the Ohio State defensive line. The new wave has arrived, and the time has arrived to start trying to match it.