Bosa Has Come a Long Way in a Very Short Time
by Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — It was in the early August heat while working through some position drills when defensive line coach Mike Vrabel began yelling at freshman defensive end Joey Bosa to run a drill again. And then again. And then a third time.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“You're a long way from St. Thomas,” Vrabel bellowed at Bosa, a 6-foot-5 270-pound behemoth from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Eventually, Bosa did the drill the way Vrabel wanted it done, and then the youngster went to the back of the line. His head hung low, a couple of teammates gave him some words of encouragement to keep his spirits up.
Two months later, that same freshman who had to run drills in triplicate just to get it right is now an impact player on the Ohio State defensive line. Bosa, who has started three games in place of the injured Adolphus Washington, is tied for second on the team in sacks (2.0), and is third in tackles for loss (4.0).
His production goes beyond statistics, as it does for most defensive linemen. He is disruptive beyond his years, and his future is saturated with possibilities.
“He's an impact player and I've never really had a freshman defensive lineman (make such an impact),” said Urban Meyer.
“Usually a corner or a receiver or even a running back can step in and play and all that. His future is kind of silly around here if he keeps going.”
That future doesn't seem all that far away. Bosa already looks like how you want a defensive end to look. In fact, some think he'll eventually outgrow the position. For now, however, he's exactly where he needs to be, and it shows every single Saturday.
“He's just so strong,” Meyer explained.
“He torques people. He benches 225 like 30 times, some crazy number, and he uses it. Some guys are really strong and they don't use it, but he's a long-levered guy and you can tell his dad played for Boston College and in the pros; and he's Eric Kumerow's nephew, so it's a big football family and you can tell. Football has been in his world his entire life.”
Bosa was a High School All-American and five-star prospect who grew up around football, and that knowledge of the game has been apparent with the way he has absorbed the coaching that he has received. When Vrabel was berating him the very first week of camp, it's unlikely that there was any concern that he wouldn't be able to handle it. In fact, the coaches learned pretty quickly that they had something special on their hands.
“He's very mature beyond his years as a freshman both physically and mentally,” said defensive coordinator Luke Fickell.
“A lot of things don't rattle him, whether it's a big stage or different situations like that. He's a kid that has come a long way, but when he walked in these doors it wasn't like he wasn't ready to go. You never know about a guy coming in. You have some high expectations, I thought a lot of him and had some high expectations when he came in, but you just never know if they can live up to that.”
While Fickell may have had high expectations, Bosa did not. Sometimes all a freshman can do is focus on one drill at a time, and even then that's not always enough.
“I didn't really have any expectations,” Bosa said earlier in the week.
“I just go out and work. Do what I can do, and when I get the opportunity, then go in and make an impact.”
That opportunity to make an impact came in very handy last week against Northwestern, and it was absolutely by design.
“We were down and I felt like I needed to go out there and make an impact,” he said, “so I just went out there and played hard.”
Bosa sacked Wildcats quarterback Trevor Siemian late in the third quarter, and it knocked Northwestern out of field goal range. The Wildcats ended up punting from the Ohio State 36-yard line with a 23-20 lead. Who knows how the game goes if Northwestern adds to that lead in that moment.
He then, of course, ended that contest by scoring the final touchdown of the game when he dove on a loose ball in the endzone. He called it icing on the cake with the big win, but it was another glimpse in a growing photo gallery at what is going to be a very bright future for the freshman from Fort Lauderdale.
Yes, Bosa may be a long way from St. Thomas, but there isn't anybody in Scarlet and Gray who would have it any differently right now.
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