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2021 NFL Draft Prospect Interview: Tommy Togiai, DT, Ohio State

How does Togiai fit in the Colts’ defensive line rotation?

Indiana v Ohio State Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

A fan-favorite series is coming back to the site as it is officially prospect interview season. For anybody new to the site or for people who need a reminder, every draft season I sit down with prospects that are going to be in the upcoming NFL Draft to talk with them about their off-field accomplishments and some film aspects on the field. While I don’t always talk to star players, I have been able to talk to a few players who eventually ended up with the Colts such as Khari Willis, Marvell Tell III, and Rock Ya-Sin.

Our next prospect interview is with Ohio State defensive tackle Tommy Togiai. We had a great conversation about interior defensive line play, his desire to show teams that he can rush the passer, and his elite strength on the interior.


Background

Height: 6’1”

Weight: 296 pounds

40 Time (Pro Day): 5.01 seconds

Vertical Jump: 32 inches

Bench Reps: 40

Class: Junior

Tommy Togiai was a four star recruit out of Highland High School in Idaho. He saw playing time immediately as a Freshman, where he had a solid season as part of Ohio State’s defensive line rotation. He continually improved each season and was an absolute force on the interior as a Junior in 2020, wreaking havoc on a national stage against Clemson. He finished his Buckeye career with 49 total tackles, 8.5 tackles for a loss, 3 sacks, and a forced fumble.

ZH: One thing I love to ask Ohio State players is about coaching, and you were fortunate enough to learn from Larry Johnson. What was his impact on your career at Ohio State?

TT: His impact was huge. From where I was when I arrived to where I am today, it’s night and day. The technique on the field and making me a better man off the field, Coach J and I were really close during my years there. It was just an honor to be coached by him and have that relationship built.

ZH: Where have you seen the biggest improvements in your game over the years?

TT: Probably just movement ability. I know when I first arrived I was kind of stiff in my hips, but working with Coach Johnson and the training staff helped me gain more flexibility. It really helped my lateral movement and also helped me gain speed as well.

ZH: I always ask defensive tackles this next question. How do you keep that balance of adding speed to your game while also maintaining the size you need to be at to play DT?

TT: You don’t want to get too light and maintain your weight. For me, I just tried to cut off body fat and tried to gain more muscle. That way I could maintain my weight but cut off that body fat and be in better shape on the field.


Defensive Tackle Play

ZH: Playing DT isn’t very glamorous at all. Other players get the stats and big plays while you are there to open things up for them. What mindset do you have to have to play that position on a defense?

TT: Coach J always talks about it. Not too many people want to play that position because there aren’t too many times where you will be the one making the play. You are typically the one causing the defense to make that play without the credit. Just having the mindset of more team aspirations plays a role. My mindset was that I am putting my body out there for the team. Even if I’m not making a play, my brother next to me will if I get my job done.

ZH: Were you more of a two-gap type of tackle or did they unleash you and allow you to one-gap a bit?

TT: I would say two-gap but more of just holding my responsibility, which would be either the A gap or B gap. I would have to hold my gap and, also, eat up any double teams so our linebackers could get free. That is mainly what we had to do as the nose tackle or three technique in our defense, hold at the point of attack and allow our linebackers to stay free and make plays.

ZH: Are you excited to potentially get into more of a one-gap type of system in the NFL (the Colts mainly one-gap upfront)?

TT: Yeah, a little bit. That’s what I’m excited for. That’s what I’m training for and trying to show other teams how they can use me in different schemes. I’m always watching film on other defensive lines in the NFL and how their schemes could fit me into their defense.


Strengths on Film

ZH: Your strength really pops on film. Is that more natural ability or did you really have to work to get that ability to where it is now?

TT: I would say just lifting throughout my whole life has helped. I definitely worked on it to get to where I am today with my strength. Starting at a young age really helped me get to where I am today, though.

ZH: Do you have this confidence with your strength that guys just can’t move you in the run game?

TT: That’s kind of in my blood, man. I can’t let offensive linemen push me out of my gap, and that’s really my mindset about it. I have to hold my gap and not let them push me around so my team can make some plays.

ZH: The NFL is all about the pass rush now. Has a big focus for you this offseason been to show teams that you are more than just a run defender?

TT: Yeah, definitely. Pass rushing is a lot of what teams want and what they say to me in the interviews. Teams have asked me in those interviews what I want to improve on and I always say just trying to add moves to my arsenal as a pass rusher.

ZH: Do you have a go-to pass rush move?

TT: Probably just a stab-club. I’ve been getting that move honed in and one of the main tools in my tool box.


NFL Outlook

ZH: What is my team getting when they draft Tommy Togiai?

TT: On the field, you are getting a guy who can make an immediate impact against the run and the pass. I think I’m underrated a bit against the pass but I’m cool with being underrated, that’s alright. Off the field, a guy who will be accountable and bring leadership to the guys. Just a guy who is going to do his job.


Final Thoughts

While the Colts don’t have a major need at defensive tackle with Grover Stewart and DeForest Buckner, they could use another solid rotational player in that group. Togiai will probably go too high for the Colts but I could see him being a great value pick if he slips for some reason. The Colts’ DL Coach Brian Baker has met with Togiai this offseason so they certainly have some interest. I’m a big fan of Togiai in this class and for the right price, I’d love to see him end up in Indy.