Jalyn Holmes was one of four starting defensive ends last season for the Buckeyes in their loaded 2017 rotation. When you look at his numbers and see two sacks and three tackles for loss last season, you might not think that’s much to have to replace. When you look a little closer, however, and see that he started more games (9) than Nick Bosa (7) or Sam Hubbard (8), his importance begins to breach the surface.
At 6-foot-5 and 280-odd pounds, Holmes was arguably the Buckeyes’ most versatile defender. A talented defensive end, Holmes’ ability to slide inside to defensive tackle on passing downs — and running downs against passing teams — is not an easy combination to find. Ohio State has some options here, but Holmes’ range of talents added depth all over the defensive line.
Perhaps the most difficult aspect of Holmes’ game the Buckeyes will have to replace is his selflessness. Not only did he share reps happily, he also played defensive tackle without question. He did whatever he was asked to do, and he led his teammates while he did it. Jalyn Holmes was much more than two sacks and three tackles for loss, and he leaves a crater where there used to be intangibles.
One player who can do what Holmes did is Nick Bosa, who did a lot of it in 2016 as a true freshman. Bosa is arguably the most talented Ohio State defensive end since, well, his brother. Bosa was the Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year in 2017 and has the full respect and fear of conference coaches. He was also a First-Team All-American. If there is a void to fill, there are worse options to have to turn to than Nick Bosa.
A large part of Holmes’ charm was being able to slide down to defensive tackle, but there will be half as much need for that this year with Dre’Mont Jones’ inclusion into the Rushmen. Jones doesn’t yet know what his future holds in terms of his eventual position, be it end or tackle, but his ability as a pass rusher will make up for much of Holmes’ absense.
Rising sophomore Chase Young will soon be able to match Holmes in stature, but can he match him in versatility? Will Young be asked to slide inside on passing downs, or will it be Bosa and Jones while Young and Jonathon Cooper remain outside? Freshmen like Tyreke Smith and Tyler Friday could eventually fulfill some of this need for versatility, but don’t expect it to happen in 2018.
There won’t really be a need to spend too much time working on the Rushmen situation because with only three defensive ends on the roster in the spring, they’ll be getting plenty of work as it is. Replacing Holmes is much more about Saturdays than the other six days of the week. With Nick Bosa, Chase Young, and Jonathon Cooper, the Buckeyes will have enough talent to give good work to the offensive line. The only question is where will Dre’Mont Jones line up this spring — if it is even a question.
The best bet here is that Nick Bosa and Dre’Mont Jones will fill in quite admirably. Bosa was excited before the 2017 season because he wasn’t going to be playing inside as much. More than anything, however, he just wants to play, so he will line up wherever he is asked, as long as he gets on the field. Passing downs with Bosa and Jones next to each other inside seems pretty destructive.
Jalyn Holmes will be difficult to replace, but having Nick Bosa and Dre’Mont Jones on hand to try it is a great, great start. Bosa can assume the role of the interior slider, as he has done it before. Jones could do the same. If Jones remains at defensive tackle, however, he can at least absorb much of the interior pass-rushing blow from Holmes’ departure. Holmes will be missed, but Bosa and Jones will have things covered.
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