Spring Game Quotebook: JT Tuimoloau says Ohio State defense has ‘different energy’ in 2022, CJ Stroud gives Dwayne Haskins ‘last shoe game’

Saturday’s scrimmage officially closed Ohio State’s spring as the Buckeyes provided a first look at their 2022 roster to the Scarlet and Gray faithful in attendance at Ohio Stadium.

The attack vs. defense format saw Ohio State go live and tackle on the ground, outside of quarterbacks, and Team Scarlet (offense) finished the afternoon with an advantage of 34-26 on the Gray team (defense) before the end of the festivities at the shoe.

The tone was set on the first practice, as CJ Stroud and company walked down the field to score a touchdown in 10 plays with Jaxon Smith-Njigba picking up where he left off in the Rose Bowl with a catch. 29-yard goal in the first quarter. But it’s also notable about that drive that Stroud donned the jersey of late Buckeye quarterback Dwayne Haskins, paying tribute to a player who paved the way for him to come to Ohio State first. place.

Stroud spoke about his decision to honor Haskins in this way after the game and said Haskins “changed the culture” at quarterback in Columbus.

“I just wanted to honor his — maybe his last moment in the shoe,” Stroud said. “I feel like he’s one of my big brothers and I just wanted to pay tribute to him. It wasn’t crazy for me, I just thought it would have been important for him to come out on the right foot, so I’m glad his last game at the Shoe was a touchdown, so I’m excited for that.

But even though Stroud had a little extra help from Haskins on his 14-for-22-and-120-yard day, Buckeye’s defense also made plenty of big plays in what could only be seen as a promising performance from the Jim Knowles group.

Knowles has kept his real cards close to the vest in terms of the looks he ultimately plans to unveil once the season begins, but Buckeye’s new defensive coordinator said even before the spring game he was already thrilled with the way whose Buckeyes had adapted to his system.

“Going into the game, I felt good about how far we’ve come, what we’ve accomplished, what we’ve set up, how the players have gone about it,” Knowles said. “It was as good or better than I could have wished for.”

“The biggest revelation of the spring was that no matter how talented these players we have, they want to learn. They absorbed everything I did. They’re just in; in football, in us, in the change of culture and the way we manage meetings. They picked it up. I mean, they picked it up at high speed.

One player in particular who earned praise from Knowles and those who had their eyes on the Buckeye defense on Saturday was freshman safety Kye Stokes, who was the first true freshman to lose his black tape this spring. Stokes finished with nine tackles, tied for second on the team, and two pass breakups before it was all said and done. Stokes was all over the court, making plays in pass coverage and in the running game, and appears to be on the right path at the start of his Buckeye career, to say the least.

After seeing his performance in the scrum, Knowles didn’t disagree.

“Without watching the movie, I thought he had a great game, just because he showed up and flashed and looked like he took the opportunity. What worries you with a young man, it’s the bright lights, and it seemed like it wasn’t a problem for him. He really stepped up. I envision good things for him. I’ve always loved him, but I’ve been impressed today.

Buckeye’s defensive line is sure to grab headlines as the front four finished with six sacks at the end of the game. JT Tuimoloau had two on his own, and Jack Sawyer added another, as the two fueled the idea that their sophomore year of college football could result in a breakout campaign.

“I think JT and Jack both had really good offseasons. They got stronger, they got faster, the technique got better – and you saw that today,” said Ryan Day. “If they keep building this summer, then they’re going to be a force in the fall. I think they really embraced Coach Johnson and his system as well.

When asked what had changed in the Buckeye defense since the end of the 2021 season, Tuimoloau simply replied that there had been a change in mentality which had coincided with the change in the regime of the coaching staff. defensive.

“I just think with all the change and all that, I think we just got together and a lot of older guys stepped up and took a lot of younger boys under their wing. After that, we kept coming with different energy and pushing each other,” Tuimoloau said. “Holding each other accountable was a big thing for us too.”

The start of the 2022 roster is still a long way off, but both sides of the ball have given Ohio State fans something to be excited about as the drop nears in a few months.