Future of Defensive Line Starts with Joey Bosa

By Kyle Rowland on December 22, 2013 at 9:00a
No. 97: the present and future.

In a brief look ahead to 2014, the losses for Ohio State are many. Gone is Carlos Hyde, almost the entire offensive line, Bradley Roby, C.J. Barnett and possibly Ryan Shazier, Braxton Miller and Christian Bryant. After a 24-1 stretch, some might think the outlook for next season is bleak.

But then again, this is Ohio State and Urban Meyer. Recruiting is a 24/7/365 enterprise. Present day college football has proven athletic defensive lines can be a ticket to greatness, and the Buckeyes possess all the necessary weapons to achieve their lofty goals.

As the pass defense stumbled through 13 games, opponents were unable to find a steady avenue to run through. Ohio State ranks seventh nationally in rush defense, limiting teams to 102 yards per game, and leads the country with 40 sacks.

The entire group which spurred that production – or lack thereof – returns intact next season. Much was said of Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington and Michael Bennett during spring practice and fall camp. The great unknown was true freshman defensive end Joey Bosa. That’s no longer a problem for Ohio State coaches.

Bosa was one of the most prolific members of the rebuilt line, recording 39 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. All that earned him freshman All-American honors and continuous praise from head coach Urban Meyer.

“Joey Bosa is not a ‘throw in there,’ he’s a starter,” Meyer said in October. “Joey Bosa is the starter right now. He’s a starting defensive lineman as a true freshman at Ohio State, which is quite a mouthful.

“He’s an impact player, and I’ve never really had a freshman defensive lineman (do that).”

Even Bosa is surprised. He said recently that he entered the season with no expectations. Part of that was rooted in his opinion of himself, which was far from a ringing endorsement. Bosa said he wasn’t very good and didn’t know if he’d get on the field.

Some of that can be chalked up to being humble – Bosa was a five-star recruit – but there is some credence to the self-assessment. Racking up plays, tackles and sacks as a true freshman for a national championship contender is rare for a defensive lineman.

However, Bosa isn’t a normal freshman, he comes from NFL bloodlines. His father, John, was a star defensive lineman at Boston College and first-round draft pick in 1987, and uncle, Eric Kumerow, played on the D-line at Ohio State and also was a first-round selection, in 1988. Bosa possesses the same physical skills and pass-rushing ability.

“It’s a big football family. You can tell football has been in his world his entire life,” Meyer said. “He’s just so strong, he torques people. Some guys are real strong, but they don’t use it. But he is a long-levered guy, and you can tell.”

Throughout the spring, Spence and Washington wreaked havoc on Braxton Miller. In the end, though, it was Spence and Bosa who formed the terrific tandem. The duo combined for 27 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks. Supplanting Washington as the starter became an easy decision simply because Bosa’s difference-making capability.   

For the next three years – or two, depending on Bosa’s NFL prospects – Ohio State’s defense will be built around its line. The kind remarks are flattering to Bosa, but he said individual accomplishments have little meaning.

“He’s very mature beyond his years, both physically and mentally,” defensive coordinator Luke Fickell said. “A lot of things don’t rattle him, whether it’s a big stage or different situations. He’s come a long way, but when he walked in these doors it’s not like he wasn’t built ready to go. I had some high expectations, but you just never know whether they’re going to live up to that.”

Bosa may have stuck out most in the Buckeyes’ lone loss of the season. In the Big Ten Championship Game, he constantly harassed Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook. He finished with a sack, two tackles for loss and three quarterback hurries. He was one defensive player who shined on an otherwise forgettable night.

“I definitely wouldn’t say it’s come easy,” Bosa said.

Neither will the rest of his career in Columbus. But Ohio State’s future on defense appears well situated with its freshman phenom.


Comments Show All Comments

WarBuckeyes17's picture

If the coaching staff continues to develop the great athletes they're bringing in, I can see the defense returning to its mean, nasty, traditional self. Can't wait.

If you are the big tree, we are the small axe - Bob Marley 

TresselourgodUrbanoursavior's picture

This line could have 3 All-Americans next year in Bosa, Spence, and Bennett.  The difference they will make on our pass defense with another year under their belt is going to be huge. I don't want to get ahead of myself, but I think they would be worthy of the nickname "The Nasty Boys" (my Cincinnati roots talking).

RedStorm45's picture

It's tough because we were all excited about Diesel, another strong side end, coming into this year. Wonder if they continue to rotate or try to move one inside.  Hale starts inside but is often the first off the field in the rotation.

sivaDavis's picture

They have moved Diesel inside a lot the last couple games. I think with Bosa/Spence/Washington/Bennett you can do a lot of things rotation wise. Each of those players could play inside or outside. Throw in Tommy Schutt, Chris Carter, etc; The defensive line will be and should be nasty. Now I want to see these young studs in the secondary show me something. Apple, Burrows, Bell, Conley, Reeves, etc. 

"I've had smarter people around me all my life, but I haven't run into one yet that can outwork me. And if they can't outwork you, then smarts aren't going to do them much good." - Woody Hayes

Crumb's picture

The defense has the talent they just need an identity.

"The only good thing about it is winning the d*** thing" - Urban Meyer on The Game The War

BassDropper's picture

Next years D-Line
DE-Noah Spence
DT-Mike Bennett
DT-Adolpheus Washington
NT-Tommy Schutt
DE-Joey Bosa
Joel Hale
Steve Miller
Chris Carter
Jayln Holmes
Tyquan Lewis
Tracy Sprinkle
Mike Hill
Solomon Thomas (maybe)
This is the best D-Line I have ever seen at tOSU. 


Chise47's picture

You missed Jamal Marcus & Donovan Munger. Billy Price to the OL, or it would be even more loaded!! 
Jalyn Holmes, Solomon Thomas (if he comes), & whoever else in '14 comes is headed for a redshirt!!! It will be redrum for a true frosh to get PT next year.

BassDropper's picture

Yep. I did it all off the top of my head, just goes to show what crazy depth we have when I forget a guy as talented as Jamal Marcus. 


Toilrt Paper's picture

Ohio State doesn't use a 5 man D-line.

buckskin's picture

Great write up.  Can't wait for his younger brother to commit and play likewise.

Hovenaut's picture

The edge on the edge......man was he solid this year.

cinserious's picture

Joey 'Boss' Bosa is the most talented and freakishly athletic defensive lineman Urban Meyer has had since Carlos Dunlap. After next year, Bosa will be the top D-lineman in the country, Hands down 

One day I will valiantly become a political prisoner of 11W jail.

rdubs's picture

Having a line that can lead the nation in sacks without getting so far out of position that it still stops the run well enough for 7th in the nation is the definition of an all-time great line.  There will be some high draft picks over the next couple of years, and the way we're recruiting they should just keep on coming.

Crimson's picture

Yeah, but we give up the screen pass big time.

rdubs's picture

Not sure how much that is on the Dline, maybe the backside DE on throwback screens, but that needs to be LBs or DBs triggering more quickly to get off blocks and disrupt the timing.

Seattle Linga's picture

This offensive line will continue to get better and better each and every game next year. They will be jelling by the B1G team schedule

Toilrt Paper's picture

The D-line this year was not helpful for the DBs. Very little pass rush with just the front-4. Most of the 40 sacks came when there was a blitz involved.

rdubs's picture

I disagree with this assessment, we were burned on quick screens and short routes that are designed to neutralize a pass rush.  Whenever the other team decided to drop back and run a slower developing play we got consistent pressure with only 4 and occasionally 3.

OldColumbusTown's picture

The next level talent on the D-line this year is unbelievable.
I think it is safe to say that Bosa, Bennett, Spence, and Washington will be selected in the NFL Draft at some point.  I would argue Schutt will get to that point as well.  That is just the "safe" to assume guys.
Hill likely has a pro future (we haven't seen enough in game action to know for sure, but he's obviously highly regarded by the coaching staff), and I wouldn't be completely surprised if Carter and/or Hale get a shot as well.
Add in the purported talent of these last two recruiting years at the LB and DB positions, and it would be very difficult for me to believe the defense shouldn't get turned around rather quickly.  It is now on the coaches to develop a schematic identity for this group of amazing football talent.