For the first time since Urban Meyer’s first season at Ohio State in 2012, there isn’t a Bosa listed on the Buckeyes’ official football roster.
The OSU defense got accustomed to the absence a year early, of course, following Nick Bosa’s season-ending injury last year in the third game of the season.
The Buckeyes never really recovered from the loss. Bosa was arguably the best player in the nation and had a defense designed to put him in position to make life terrible for opposing offenses.
To make matters worse, depth was an issue at defensive end for Ohio State. They had just lost Tyquan Lewis, Jalyn Holmes, and Sam Hubbard to the NFL. Their replacements were four true freshmen, two of whom redshirted.
Defensive tackle Jashon Cornell was moved to defensive end in the spring just so the Buckeyes wouldn’t have to rely on the freshmen too much. Once Bosa went down, however, that all went out the window.
This year, things are different.
Veterans Chase Young and Jonathon Cooper are back, and last year’s four freshmen are much further along than they were a year ago.
Sophomores Tyler Friday and Tyreke Smith played quite a bit last year, but the production wasn’t where it needed to be. That’s expected for freshmen, which is why coaches don’t want to have to rely on them. This year, the learning curve needs to become a much straighter line, and the expectation is that it will.
Redshirt freshmen Javontae Jean-Baptiste and Alex Williams didn’t see the field last year, but found some footing. Jean-Baptiste was one of the most impressive defensive ends on the Ohio State roster this spring.
Last year, freshmen like Tyreke Smith and Tyler Friday had to play because there was no depth. This year, freshmen Zach Harrison and Noah Potter will have a much harder climb to the field. While both are talented, so are the players ahead of them.
This depth — while still mostly unproven — is reminiscent of what the Buckeyes had back in 2016 and 2017 when four defensive ends — Hubbard, Lewis, Holmes, and Bosa — would rotate evenly and terrorize offensive lines for four long quarters. (And sometimes even an overtime or two.)
In fact, Jonathon Cooper thinks the Ohio State defense could return to that model.
“I think so. There’s no reason why we can’t and no reason why we shouldn’t,” he said. “We have the talent, we have the guys and we have the depth, so we just need guys to play.”
He sees a very similar situation to what he experienced in 2016 as a sophomore, where he and a freshman Chase Young were basically the fifth and sixth defensive ends.
“Depth-wise, I feel like we’re the same because the standard doesn’t drop,” he said. “The same standard we had in 2014 is the same we had in 2017, is the same as we had in 2019.”
Meeting those standards, however, has been the problem.
But for the first time, the Ohio State defense may finally be ready for life after Bosa. Eight defensive ends populate the OSU roster, and the rest of the Big Ten would love to have any of the eight.
The standard will be the same as last year, but the outcome should be much, much better.
“The standard is the same as it’s always been: you try to move that yard stick even farther out,” Cooper said. “Nothing’s changed. We’re not lowering our standards just because we don’t have any Bosas on the team. We’re still going to hold ourselves to that level.”
The last name of the player is irrelevant, Cooper is right. There were plenty of good ends before the name Bosa.
Sure would love to see, “Looks like meat’s back on the menu, boys!” from our DEs this year. But you’re right. Us old codgers have seen a few great ones play before there were Bosas and chances are good we’ll see a few more before we die off. 🙂
Nope, no kidding.
Great quote from LOTR The Two Towers…..we just hope the results from the one who made the comment turns out better for the Buckeyes than it did for the Orcs! Will Smith, Darrion Scott, Mr. Wrong Way Jim, Brent Johnson, Mike Vrabel and my favorite of all time………..Van Ness Decree.
Never a better one.
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