Ohio State football defenders grabbed attention in Senior Bowl victory

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Four Ohio State football players lined up for the National squad on the opening snap of Saturday’s Reese’s Senior Bowl.

Those numbers improved the odds of a Buckeye coming up with a stop. Jonathon Cooper came through, taking down former Wake Forest and Georgia quarterback Jamie Newman out in space for one of his 1.5 tackles for loss.

All four of those OSU seniors — linebackers Tuf Borland, Baron Browning and Justin Hilliard being the others — utilized their chance to stand out while helping the National squad to a 27-24 victory in Mobile, Alabama, on Saturday.

Cooper recorded the highest individual TFL total among the nine piled up by the National team. He also recorded half a sack shortly after that first takedown of Newman and sprinkled in other pressures throughout the game. Cooper wore No. 0 — the “Block O” he as awarded with at OSU prior to his senior season.

Hilliard’s four tackles ranked third among all National team players and included half a TFL. Three of those came in the first half while the National built a 13-0 lead.

The Buckeyes’ other outside linebacker, Browning, recorded three tackles. He also occasionally lined up as an edge rusher — something he did only occasionally at OSU but may be a bigger part of his pro repertoire — and created pressure to force incompletions on a couple of occasions.

Borland missed a diving interception by only inches in the third quarter. He was credited with a pass breakup on the play and also recorded a tackle for loss.

With the possible exception of Browning, none of the Buckeyes who played Saturday have profiled as first or second-day NFL Draft picks. The Senior Bowl provides an opportunity for such players to showcase themselves during a week of practices and the nationally televised game. We will know whether or not they helped their stock, or how much, when the draft is held in Cleveland from April 29-May 1.

Ohio State running back Trey Sermon was selected for the game but could not play due to the injury sustained in the national championship game.

Get Ohio State Sugar Bowl champs & CFP gear: Check out shirts, hats and more merchandise commemorating Ohio State’s Sugar Bowl win over Clemson, as well as gear on the Buckeyes advancing to the College Football Playoff national championship game.

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