Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson is a blessed man. Last season, he was the coach of four future NFL defensive ends, and all four of those players are back for 2017. It’s unusual to have that much talent at one position, and even more unusual to have them as a rotation two years in a row.
A year ago, Tyquan Lewis, Sam Hubbard, and Jalyn Holmes had to find a way to make room for freshman Nick Bosa. As you might have expected, the four of them worked very well as a rotation. They stayed fresh all season long. They stayed happy, and so did Larry Johnson.
One year later and here we are all over again.
Except there is somehow now more.
Whether he can use it or not.
That’s Johnson when it comes to defensive ends. He has four that he knows he can rely on, but you know what’s better than four defensive ends? Five. Or even six.
While not a direct quote, here is a pretty apt summation of Johnson’s thoughts on the subject.
So because Johnson wanted more defensive ends, he now has more, in the form of sophomore Jonathon Cooper and freshman Chase Young. Both were 5-star prospects in high school, and both could have gone anywhere in the country to play their college football.
Cooper is experiencing his second fall camp. He played in six games last season for the Buckeyes, never getting into the rotation that was already loaded before he and Bosa arrived in the same class. This is Young’s first fall camp, meanwhile, and even though he doesn’t always know where he is supposed to be, he gets where he’s going as fast as his coaches like to see.
Together, they give Johnson a pair of defensive ends that any coach in the country would love to find room for. At Ohio State in 2017, however, you have to wonder where those minutes can possibly come from.
Can Ohio State Play Six Defensive Ends?
“To be honest, I don’t know,” said right tackle Isaiah Prince, who sees all six of OSU’s defensive ends every day in practice. “I think they might all play. It’s a really good defensive line, but they’ve got a good group of older guys showing them the way. Just the whole unit is really good.”
Individually, both Cooper and Young bring appealing traits to the football field.
“They’re just a couple of young guys that go hard,” Prince said. “They’re going to be really good in the future. Chase Young is really long and athletic. I think he plays really hard. So does Jonathon Cooper. They play really hard, which they make plays just by playing hard. I think once they get older and get all of the technique down they’ll be really good players.”
Young is listed at 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds, but he will tell you he’s 260 pounds every day of the week, and you should believe him. Cooper, meanwhile, comes in at 6-foot-3 and 248 pounds. He had a fantastic spring game and has continued his increased backfield presence in fall camp.
Isaiah Prince isn’t the only Ohio State offensive tackle impressed by what he has seen from Cooper and Young.
“Oh man, Chase is gonna be good,” said left tackle Jamarco Jones. “He’s still a freshman, so he’s still learning, but he’s going to be really good. Coop, he’s explosive. He’s been getting his step back a little bit. He’s been looking really impressive this camp.”
Like Prince, Jones doesn’t know how much room there will be for either of these two, but if they are good enough to get the job done, he wouldn’t be surprised to see it happen.
“I don’t know how when you’ve got four guys that could go in the first round,” he said. “But yeah, if you can throw a fifth one in there, why not. It will keep everybody even more fresh.”