Ohio State '20 OH DE (SR) - Jack Sawyer ('23 Second Team All-BIG, '22 Honorable Mention All-BIG)

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    • Sawyer didn’t leave any doubt whether he’d play in the Cotton Bowl. “Absolutely.”
    • His NFL draft future is still undecided, however, as with many of his teammates. “I think a lot of us are trying to navigate that right now and I think a lot of us are close to making a decision and announcing it. I think here in the next couple of weeks you’ll see a lot of guys’ decisions on what the future holds.”
    • On when the 2021 recruiting class decided as a collective that they – or at the very least of them – would be playing in the bowl game: “It happened immediately once we knew where we were going. We don’t know what a lot of guys are going to do after this year. In case some guys leave or whoever leaves, we want to send guys out the right way and play together one last time and give it all we’ve got.”
    • On his feelings following the Michigan loss: “I’d be lying to you if I told you I don’t think about it a lot. When you work all year for one game and you fall short, that’s tough. Especially when it’s three years in a row.”
    • While an 11-1 season and New Year’s Six bowl berth would be seen as a successful season by most programs, Sawyer understands that that’s not the case at Ohio State when a team loses to Michigan. “It’s unfortunate, but that’s what we signed up for.”
    • On whether the Buckeyes have to work through not having as many players who grew up in the rivalry like Sawyer, who is from Columbus: “Guys like myself and Ty Hamilton and Sonny and Lorenzo (Styles) who grew up in Columbus, we naturally feel it a little more. I can remember being a kid in fifth grade and wearing a Buckeyes jersey to school and talking trash with some kids who may be a Team Up North fan. ... But we do a great job of (working the rivalry) and everyone on the team knows how much this game means.”
    • Sawyer considers Kyle McCord a close, personal friend and felt for him as he experienced some adversity and outside noise this year. “You’re expected to throw for 4,000 yards, 50 touchdowns, it’s a lot of pressure. Especially when you’re a first-time starter and you’re playing on a bad wheel. ... I know Kyle is going to have success wherever he goes and I wish him nothing but the best.”
    • On people saying that the Cotton Bowl is “meaningless” for Ohio State: “Pardon my French, but I think that’s kind of bullshit. This game means a lot to us and to the fans, it’s an opportunity to go out there and play and put our best foot forward and show the world who we really are.”
     
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    • Asked if he’s going to return for his senior season at Ohio State, Sawyer said “more than likely.” An official decision will come soon after the Cotton Bowl, he added, even the day after potentially.
    • On whether the team is motivated for the Cotton Bowl: “We’re all focused on this game and we all want to finish the season out right and end it on a good note.”
    • There’s also a point of personal pride, Sawyer feels. “I just think it’s another time to go out there and play. We’re all extreme competitors.”
    • Sawyer went to Pickerington North while Ty Hamilton went to Pickerington Central and Sawyer has appreciated getting to play out his career with fellow Pickerington natives like Hamilton and Lorenzo and Sonny Styles.“Me and Ty have been good friends since, really, (as far back as) I can remember, playing PYA football against each other and just running around the neighborhood with all of our friends.”
    • On playing his best football in the second half of the season: “I feel like the last six games, we kind of just let loose a little more. Started playing a little more free within the scheme and just doing every little thing better.”
    • On what Ohio State’s lack of opt-outs and focus on the Cotton Bowl rather than NFL draft announcements says about the team: “I think it just speaks to the culture of what we’ve got at Ohio State. The brotherhood we’ve got. Guys want to compete with each other.”
    • Keeping dual-threat Missouri quarterback Brady Cook contained will be a matter of “rushing smart,” Sawyer said. “I think when you're playing a kid like this who's back there at quarterback, it’s super important to maintain (rush lanes) and keep them in the pocket. When he gets out there and uses his legs it can be a problem for the secondary.”
    • Sawyer said he got a “heavy dose” of inside run drill for Christmas, but it was also “what I asked for.”
    • Sawyer thinks the defense did ultimately make the statement it wanted to throughout the season and had a great year through 11 games. “I think we played well. I think if we could have a couple of drives back in a certain game, that’d be nice.”
    • On Missouri running back Cody Schrader: I think what surprised me is how quick he gets in and out of his cuts. He puts that foot in the ground, he's downhill on you quick. He's not gonna try to get around you, he's gonna try to run right through your face.”
    • On freshman defensive end Joshua Mickens: “I think Josh is a really smart kid. I think he works really hard and I think he's gonna figure it out here soon. And when he does it's gonna be fun to see. I think he's super athletic. Got a good feel for the game.”
    • Defensive line coach Larry Johnson’s return to Ohio State in 2024 is another draw to come back to Ohio State for Sawyer. Not just for him, but the entire defensive line, he said. “It plays a huge part with all of us.”
    • There is a group element to the NFL draft decisions of Ohio State’s 2021 recruiting class, Sawyer said. “We’ve talked about that, we definitely have. I think everyone’s gotta make the decision that’s best for them when you’re talking about your career and the NFL. It’s an opportunity we’ve all been working for our whole lives. Understanding that, but then also understanding that by coming back we could really improve our draft stock. … I do think that we’re trying to make it a collective group effort.”
     
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    EDGE DEFENDER: JACK SAWYER, OHIO STATE BUCKEYES
    This spot could’ve gone to either Ohio State edge defender as both Sawyer and JT Tuimoloau are returning to Columbus next season. Sawyer gets the nod because he was the only edge in the country with 85-plus PFF grades as both a pass-rusher and run defender this year. He finished the season as the third-most valuable Power Five edge, behind only Bralen Trice and Laiatu Latu.
     
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    • On returning for his senior season: “If you talk to all of us that decided to come back, I think there’s the personal chance to come back too, improve your draft stock. But really, I think a lot of us, it was definitely a team thing. All coming back, unfinished business, wouldn’t feel right leaving here like that without giving it one more shot that we had.”
    • Sawyer and his senior teammates aren’t taking their final go-round for granted. “We know we’ve got one more year, there’s no going back. There’s not one more year we can come back, so we’re just really blessed. We’re taking every day and not letting one day go by where we don’t give all we’ve got.”
    • There was no specific moment where Sawyer decided to return, he said, but he was leaning that way for a long time. “I think I knew all along in my heart that I wanted to come back. I think I wouldn’t have felt right leaving, losing to them three times. With the team that we’ve got coming back, with the guys that decided to come back, I wanted to take charge and say, ‘Look, if we all come back, look at what we could do.’ Once I thought about that and I got some other guys on board, it was kind of a no-brainer.”
    • On what facilitated his three-sack Cotton Bowl performance: “I just think that I was put in good positions, just let loose, went out there and played ball like I know how to. My teammates played a great game too, my coaches called a great game defensively. ... Fourteen (points) against a good offense like that, great team, that’s a great day.”
    • On his surge to become one of Ohio State’s best defensive players the back half of last season: “I felt like I was in a groove the whole second half of the season. I felt like myself again and I was just out there playing and having fun with my teammates. I think that when you come here and expect to hit the field and it to be a certain way, it’s hard to get over that for a little bit. I think you can look at all of us on the D-line, as a front we’ve all had our own journey to where we’re playing right now.”
    • Sawyer feels that Ohio State has one of the most talented rosters in the country and it will be up to the players as individuals to maximize it. “There’s no talent issues on this team. ... That’s God-given though. What we can work on is our discipline, our skill, our technique. I think if we become the most disciplined and sound team technique-wise, there’s not gonna be a team in the country that can stop us. But it’s gonna be a long process to get to that point.”
    • On JT Tuimoloau’s return: “He’s a hell of a player and a really good friend of mine, so just having another year of him, we’re gonna enjoy it and hopefully have some fun wreaking havoc on some quarterbacks next fall.”
    • On being in a spot to help recruit everyone back to the team for another year as a leader of his class: “It’s unique. It’s a really unique position. We’ve got a great group of guys coming back, man. It’s just so exciting for me, and the same thing for those guys, how much they care about this program and care about the team and Coach Day and guys you want to do it for and the city. We all knew that we had great opportunities to go to the NFL, but we also have a great opportunity to put another one of those (national championship) banners up here and get some revenge on the guys up north.”
     
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