Three former Ohio State defensive ends will likely be making their NFL debuts this month. Sam Hubbard made his preseason debut Thursday night, and Tyquan Lewis and Jalyn Holmes should be following suit soon as well.
Losing three NFL defensive ends isn’t something that a team can just brush off. At least not normally.
Ohio State, however, might be one of those few teams that can overcome such a loss because of who still remains.
Everyone knows about Nick Bosa. He was the 2017 Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year and a First-Team All-American. He was as dominant a defensive end as there was in the nation a year ago as a sophomore.
Now a junior, expectations are even higher for Bosa, and for good reason.
But one man cannot replace three. Not even a Bosa.
The Buckeyes like their chances not just because of Bosa, but also because of sophomore Chase Young and junior Jonathon Cooper.
Both Cooper and Young played last season, but when the games were in doubt, the two of them were generally watching Bosa, Hubbard, Holmes, and Lewis get the job done.
This year, however, defensive line coach Larry Johnson is relying on Young and Cooper, and has fully implemented them into this Ohio State defense.
As one of the guys tasked with keeping them from getting to the quarterback in practice, Ohio State senior right tackle Isaiah Prince has very little doubt about what the Buckeyes are going to get from their new pass rushers.
“Chase is an extremely hard worker,” Prince said. “He comes in and he grinds every day to be the best. He’s actually my workout partner during the week. So I see it first hand. Chase is the real deal. He’s going to come out and give you his best efforts every single time. I think he’s a great player.”
Sometimes, a young player can work hard, but still go through the motions because he knows he isn’t going to be called upon at a critical time.
According to Prince, that has never been Chase Young. He has always prepared to be tasked with whatever his coaches need from him, but the growth from last year to now is still apparent.
“I think Chase has always been just as serious,” Prince said. “I just think he always played in a role where he had to step back because all of the older defensive ends were here. But now that they’re gone, I’ve seen him mature a little bit and accept that responsibility of having to make plays on the field all the time.”
Interestingly, much of the attention this spring and summer has been focused on Young, while Jonathon Cooper has flown a bit under the radar.
While Cooper understands that he may not be as well known as Nick Bosa or Chase Young, his focus has only been on making the Ohio State defense as good as it can be.
Everyone around him, however, has been trying to tell people just how good he is going to be, including Isaiah Prince.
“I think Jonathon Cooper is just like Chase,” he said. “They come in and they work extremely hard. Jonathon Cooper is a gold guy for our program. Gold guys are top-notch guys in our program. I think Coop is just as good of a player. He’s going to be on the opposite side of Nick too making a lot of plays. I’m very confident in our defensive line this year.”
While people will point at the losses and expect a drop off, having seen what he has seen, Isaiah Prince is not one of those people who sees any reason to doubt the talent on hand.
“I’d say we still have three great defensive ends,” he said. “There’s never gonna be a drop off.”