No blue-chip prospect comes to Ohio State with the intention of watching somebody else do what they’d like to be doing.
Running backs don’t sign with the Buckeyes to be cheerleaders for the incumbents or tackling dummies for the defense. They want to play.
That’s the same attitude at every position on the football field. The bumper sticker for every backup should read, “I’d rather be playing.” Coaches, meanwhile, need to be searching for ways to get everyone on the field who deserves to be there.
In 2015, OSU defensive line coach Larry Johnson wanted to get more of his top pass rushers on the field in passing plays. He decided to move defensive end Joey Bosa to the three technique defensive tackle on passing downs, sliding Adolphus Washington over to nose tackle. Redshirt freshman defensive end Sam Hubbard would then come in and join Tyquan Lewis on the edges.
It was then that the Rushmen package was born. Except they were the ones doing the slapping and it was everyone else who was doing the crying.
Johnson showed a desire to get more defensive ends on the field in passing situations, and recruits have taken notice.
Following that 2015 season, the Buckeyes signed two 5-star defensive ends in Jonathon Cooper and Nick Bosa. It didn’t take long for recruits to notice an increased opportunity to play.
“It helps some guys, they know how they are going to get on the field,” Johnson said this spring. “They ask, we have a situation and a package, if you have a really special skill set we are going to find a way to use that. That might be in the Rushmen package. You may not be able to play first and second down, but we will give you reps on third down. That can get you like 10 or 15 plays a game.”
Last year as a true freshman, Nick Bosa became a member of the Rushmen 2.0, which featured four defensive ends on the field together. With Jalyn Holmes, Bosa, Hubbard, and Lewis, the Buckeyes were able to find plenty of quality reps for four talented defensive ends.
Following the 2016 season, the Buckeyes signed 5-star defensive end Chase Young out of Maryland. Young was a disruptive force in the 2017 Army All-American Bowl and will arrive this summer with expectations — both his and Johnson’s — of playing in 2017.
Johnson is now on his third year of using the Rushmen as a recruiting pitch. In 2016, it landed two 5-star defensive ends. In 2017, one. How are things going in 2018?
Currently, Georgia 5-star defensive end Brenton Cox is committed to Ohio State. He is rated the No. 22 player in the nation per the 247Sports Composite. The Buckeyes are also the betting favorite for 5-star defensive end Micah Parsons out of Pennsylvania. Parsons is rated the No. 3 overall player in the Composite.
Are you seeing the pattern?
Since Larry Johnson started using the Rushmen as a recruiting tool, he has signed three defensive ends — all of them 5-star prospects. He is on the verge of making that number five this winter.
It doesn’t even need to be said how effective a recruiting tool that this has been for Ohio State.
Which is why Johnson smiles and offers up a modest reply when he is asked that very question.
“It has been attractive, let’s say that.”