With an 11-1 overall record (8-1 in conference play) and an upcoming Sugar Bowl appearance, the 2023 season was another solid campaign for Ryan Day and Ohio State. Due to the inconsistent play of Kyle McCord, it was the Buckeyes' defense that led Ohio State to their 11th 11-plus win season in the last 12 years.
As a team, Ohio State's defense allowed their opponents to average just 11.0 PPG and 3,119 yards, which ranked second and third in the nation, respectively. The Buckeyes' stout defense can be largely attributed to the breakout of Tuimoloau in his junior season.
After committing to Ohio State as a five-star recruit in the 2021 class, Tuimoloau had an immediate impact in Columbus. In his Freshman and Sophomore seasons, recording 45 total tackles, 15.0 tackles for loss, seven sacks, four passes defended, two interceptions, and one forced fumble.
In his junior season, however, Tuimoloau has become even better on the Buckeyes' defensive line. In 12 starts, Tuimoloau posted 34 total tackles, six tackles for loss, a career-high four sacks, two passes defended, and one fumble recovered.
While Tuimoloau's season statistics aren't too gaudy, the standout defender produced multiple notable outings that changed the trajectory of the Buckeyes' games. Take, for example, Ohio State's 20-12 week-eight win over then No. 7 Penn State, where Tuimoloau sacked QB Drew Allar and broke up one pass to hold the Nittany Lions to a season-low scoring output.
Before shutting down Penn State, Tuimoloau and the Buckeye defense limited Maryland and Purdue to subpar offensive outings of their own in two crucial conference games. Against the Terripans and Boilermakers, Tuimoloau recorded 1.5 sacks in each individual game and 559 total yards in both outings.
Standing at 6'4" and 277 pounds, Tuimoloau has the overwhelming power drive to plow tackles backward and squeeze the pocket, often forcing mistakes by the opposing QBs. In addition, Tuimoloau can set the edge, stack, shed, and rip through run blocks to stop gaps in the running game.
With this said, Tuimoloau does lack a plan as a pass rusher beyond initial power, often causing him to struggle in pass-rushing scenarios. Coupled with a slight hip stiffness, and Tuimoloau has to recover from slow starts on inside and outside counter runs.