How do you make the loss of a Bosa manageable? You either bring in another Bosa or you bring in Chase Young.
Young was a 5-star prospect out of Maryland who was ranked as the No. 7 player overall in the 2017 class and the No. 2 weakside defensive end in the nation. (Who was No. 1, you ask? Jaelan Phillips, who ended up at UCLA and posted just 4.5 sacks in two years before retiring and then unretiring and transferring to Miami last year.)
Young played quite a bit as a freshman early in 2017 as the Buckeyes had a number of blowouts. He finished with 19 tackles, 6.0 tackles for loss, and 3.5 tackles for loss. As a sophomore in 2018, he began the season in the rotation, but his playing time really picked up when Nick Bosa went down with a core muscle injury. He led the Buckeyes with 15.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks.
Then, this past season, Young was arguably the best player in the nation. He led the country with 16.5 sacks and also posted 21.0 tackles for loss. He was a dominating factor as a junior and lived up to every last bit of hype he came to Ohio State with.
Young has since declared for the NFL Draft where he is expected to be selected No. 2 overall by the Washington Redskins.
So how do you now make this loss manageable?
Ohio State is still working on that.
While Young is certainly a sizeable loss, the Buckeyes do have a number of talented options, and no one player will be asked to be Chase Young 2.0.
Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson will again employ a large rotation and he’ll be selecting from a wide variety of players.
The return of starter Jonathon Cooper is significant, and he is coming back determined to have his best season as a Buckeye. But four other defensive ends with starting experience return as well.
Tyreke Smith, Tyler Friday, and Javonte Jean-Baptiste are all heading into year three, which means they are no longer young players and their production needs to be more than just the occupation of reps.
Smith missed three games with injury this past season, but still posted 12 tackles, 5.0 tackles for loss, and 3.0 sacks. If he can stay healthy, his numbers should at least double.
Friday also missed three games, putting up eight tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss, and 2.0 sacks.
After redshirting as a true freshman, Jean-Baptiste had a very strong spring and fall camp. He played in every game, producing 14 tackles and 1.5 sacks.
Zach Harrison is the most notable name here based on his recruiting rankings, his athletic ability, and his production last season as a true freshman. Because of the injuries to Friday and Smith, Harrison ended up playing more snaps than any defensive end other than Chase Young. Those snaps led to 24 tackles, 5.0 tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks.
A Harrison classmate, Noah Potter played in four games last season and redshirted. He will be another name vying for inclusion in the rotation.
There is also Cade Stover, who came to Ohio State last year as a linebacker, but has now moved to defensive end. He redshirted last season as well.
This is a deep and experienced group, which means that most of them will be able to start mastering their development with the little things that separate the good from the great.
Larry Johnson’s biggest issue this spring will be getting reps for everyone when the team is in scrimmage situations. This will essentially be a defensive end group with five starters, two redshirt freshmen, and a true freshman in Jacolbe Cowan.
Even with the loss of Chase Young, it’s hard to imagine anybody in the Big Ten having a better group of defensive ends than the Buckeyes.
This is going to be a rotation, so don’t get hung up on who the two starters are going to be. Keep in mind, Nick Bosa was in the rotation since his arrival and he only ever started seven games over his first two seasons and was an All-American as a sophomore.
So the best bet here is that Jonathon Cooper will be in the starting lineup once again and he will be joined by (probably) Tyreke Smith or Zach Harrison.
Ultimately, however, this may end up as Larry Johnson’s deepest group of defensive ends ever. Or at least the group with the widest disbursement of snaps.