Larry Johnson has only been at Ohio State for five full seasons, but has already produced more star defensive ends than most coaches do in their whole career.
Four of his ends have been drafted into the NFL, including Joey Bosa, who went No. 3 overall in 2016.
Three got picked in 2018, and all produced immediately. Sam Hubbard had six sacks, Tyquan Lewis had two, and Jalyn Holmes had one in their respective rookie seasons.
Nick Bosa is expected to hear his name called with one of the top-two picks next month.
This time next year, Chase Young is projected to go in the first round. Jonathon Cooper could be a good season away from getting picked somewhere near the top of the draft, too.
And whenever one player finishes his Buckeye career, Johnson always seems to have another star waiting in the wings.
From Joey Bosa to Lewis and Hubbard to Nick Bosa to Cooper and Young, Larry Johnson’s list of begats rivals the book of Genesis.
Want to know who’s next in line? Just ask the guy who’s currently at the top of the list. And according to Chase Young, it could be sophomore defensive Tyreke Smith.
“He’s definitely shown flashes of being a real great player,” said Young. “So, my job is to just stay on Tyreke and push him to his potential so I can see what he can do this year.”
Smith arrived at Ohio State last summer, seemingly buried on a depth chart that featured Nick Bosa, Young, Cooper, Jashon Cornell, and others. Just a few weeks into the season, he had earned his way onto the field as part of the vaunted Rushmen package.
Johnson has coached some truly remarkable talent over the years, and knew right away that Smith was special.
“He’s got really great ability. He’s really twitchy. He can run. He’s got great conditioning,” Johnson said.
Smith finished last season with nine tackles in seven games of work. He has a long way to go to live up to the legacy – and the stat line – of the Bosa brothers, Lewis, or Young. And he knows that starts right now.
“That’s what Nick (Bosa) told me,” Smith said. “He was telling me this spring (after his freshman season) is when he really transitioned, he thought, into a great player. He said take it serious, take Coach J’s coaching.”
From all indications, Smith is doing just that. He said Johnson pointed out changes to his stance that help him get off the line and into the offensive backfield quicker.
“He was like, ‘you’ve got to get your hips up’ so I can snap through my first step. My first step was a big thing I had to fix,” Smith said.
“That’s been the biggest improvement for me. And I feel like it’s been great in my pass-rushing because it gets me off the ball faster and I’ve got a faster and better edge on the tackle.”
To Johnson, it’s just the next step in the process of turning Smith from a great athlete into a great football player.
“He’s starting to learn how to play football and that’s the biggest key,” Johnson said. “Now he’s getting all of these reps in spring ball. By the time we get to August, he should be ready to go.”
There are just two weeks left in spring practice, and Smith knows they will go a long way toward determining what he can accomplish this fall.
“I think this spring is when I have to make that big jump into a big, key role,” Smith said.
Johnson knows what it takes to get a young player ready to be a significant contributor. And he says Smith is ticking all the boxes.
“He’s working hard. He’s got a great sense of humor. He’s got a great sense of how important it is to be a great player, and that’s why I love him,” Johnson said.
“Last year was a big learning experience, I can tell you that. Now you see the player that it’s possible for him to be. Tyreke’s got a great future ahead of him.”