COLUMBUS — Expectations don’t come much higher than those Taron Vincent carried with him when he arrived at Ohio State in 2018.
He was a 5-star recruit who was rated the No. 1 defensive tackle recruit in the country. Throw in the fact his dad, Troy Vincent, was a former NFL cornerback who played in five Pro Bowls and it’s easy to see why big things were predicted for him.
But, after a few brief appearances as a freshman, Vincent missed all of the 2019 season with a torn labrum and struggled to get healthy for much of last season.
The hope at OSU is that he will be in the rotation on the interior of the defensive line or become a starter this fall.
“He wasn’t healthy last year. He couldn’t play,” Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson said on a Zoom call on Friday. “He played late in the season when he got really healthy, but he didn’t play a lot of football last year. And so now, he’s a healthier player. He’s going through spring ball, he’s gone through a winter workout. He’s in a really great position right now.
“He’s what we thought he would be when we brought him here and recruited him,” Johnson said.
Ohio State head coach Ryan Day also likes what he has seen so far in spring practice from Vincent.
“I think Taron Vincent has a chance to have a breakout year for us,” he said. “His play has been excellent. He’s definitely playing his best football, and it all started in the offseason. He gave himself to Coach Mick (strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti) If you were asking me probably the most improved player right now, I would probably say Taron up front.”
Vincent said dealing with a lingering injury was a struggle, especially when OSU’s practice and training facilities were shut down last spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I wasn’t really able to get the full amount of treatment that I possibly needed,” he said. “We were shut down and stuff, so we weren’t in the facility. So that was just a little struggle with everything. It kind of delayed everything. So when we got back I was kind of behind a little bit.
“Injuries are a part of the game. I struggled with it at first but I talked to my dad he told me, ‘It’s football. Injuries come with the sport. It’s what you signed up for.’ After I had that conversation I realized I just needed to get healthy and once you get healthy you know what you can do.”
One of the two starting spots on the interior of the defensive line will belong to Haskell Garrett, a breakout star last season for OSU after coming back from being shot in the face near campus last summer.
Vincent has caught the attention of his coaches but that doesn’t mean he is a lock to start. Antwuan Jackson and Jerron Cage got playing time at defensive tackle last season and the incoming freshman class has two 4-star defensive tackles in it — Tyleik Williams and Mike Hall.
Ohio State’s spring practice continues this week through Saturday’s spring game at Ohio Stadium.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau