If everything goes as expected after the season, the Buckeyes will be losing defensive ends Tyquan Lewis, Jalyn Holmes, and Sam Hubbard, and returning Nick Bosa, Chase Young, and Jonathon Cooper.
While every team in the country would love to have that kind of foundation returning, it’s not really enough to do what Larry Johnson and the Ohio State defensive line likes to do.
The Rushmen package that they employ on passing downs requires four pass rushers, and the Buckeyes are only returning three defensive ends. There is still some recruiting to do which could help change the figures for the better, but the actual answer is already on the roster.
At least for now.
Defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones is a redshirt sophomore, meaning that he is eligible to enter the NFL Draft. He has already appeared in the first round of a few mock drafts and his name is certainly one that the pro ranks are aware of.
But his name could become even larger with more of an opportunity to show everything that he can do next year.
And that’s why Nick Bosa expects Jones to return in 2018.
“Dre’Mont is going to finally get some third-down reps in the nickel package and he’s one of the best pass rushers I’ve ever seen in practice, so people haven’t really haven’t seen that aspect of his game. He’s fun to watch, so it’s going to be fun,” Bosa said.
“He hasn’t been able to showcase his pass rush yet. And when he does, the nation is going to be like, ‘All right, we’re taking him.’”
Larry Johnson originally envisioned the Rushmen as three defensive ends and a pass-rushing defensive tackle. That was going to be Tracy Sprinkle in 2016, but a knee injury ended that. A fourth defensive end was then thrown in and it’s been that way pretty much ever since.
Jones originally came to Ohio State as a defensive end and he still has that skill set that Johnson fell in love with when watching him on the football field and basketball court at Cleveland St. Ignatius.
The three-technique defensive tackle position he plays requires those skills because Johnson wants pass rushers on his line as often as possible. Unfortunately, when you have defensive ends like Ohio State has had these past two seasons, those pass-rushing opportunities don’t come around very often for the interior guys.
That will change next year if Jones returns.
Or maybe it won’t.
What if Jones simply moved outside to defensive end next season to give the Buckeyes another four-man rotation with him, Bosa, Jonathon Cooper, and Chase Young?
How would he do?
“I just know he’s a freak athlete. Twitchy guy. I think he’d be good though. Really good at defensive end,” Jalyn Holmes said.
“He’s a quick twitch. Just a variety of things he does. And he’s so fast off the ball and things. So he definitely could create problems.”
Teammates and coaches have talked about Jones’ boundless energy in practice these last two years, and yet when it comes to the games, he essentially gets bottled up on passing downs.
If he returns in 2018, that energy will finally be unleased on passing downs, which would good news for Jones’ draft stock and very bad news for opposing quarterbacks.