Hunting for the Next Big Bear: Is there a Joey Bosa in the 2014 Class?

By Michael Citro on March 6, 2014 at 2:15p

Last season, true freshman Joey Bosa exploded into the spotlight, adding quickness, strength and aggression to Ohio State’s front four on defense.

Bosa made an immediate impact — something most collegiate freshmen can’t do because they lack the physical attributes necessary to compete with mostly older guys who have been in top notch strength and conditioning programs for two or more years. Size does matter in college football. So does strength. It’s a physical game.

The rookie from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., finished with 7.5 sacks last year, second only to Noah Spence’s eight on Ohio State’s roster. Bosa also was third in tackles for loss (13.5), tied for first in quarterback hurries (6), 10th in tackles (44), and scored a defensive touchdown on a fumble recovery at Northwestern.

Guys like Bosa don’t come along very often, obviously. However, with the success of Urban Meyer’s 2014 recruiting class, might there be someone who could step in and become the surprise starter this year as Bosa did in 2013?

Here are the top candidates to bust out as freshmen, Bosa-style*:

(* as selected by a person using his scientifically-proven gut feelings — i.e., me. Also, this is about surprise starters, so I won’t be discussing Sean Nuernberger here, since he might actually be a favorite to win the starter’s job.)

Raekwon McMillan

The much-heralded freshman linebacker has the sufficient size at 6-foot-2 and 240 pounds to keep from being overmatched at the college level. This was one of the keys to Bosa’s ability to produce in his first season. Freshmen are usually in the midst of the transition from boy to man, but Bosa arrived on campus with the size and strength to compete. McMillan similarly has the physique to compete, and with his early enrollment, he’ll have a head start in Mickey Marotti’s strength and conditioning program.

The Hinesville, Ga., product also has great speed to accompany his size. With the depth issues the Buckeyes have at linebacker, McMillan could post his breakout year right off the bat a la Bosa. But there are a lot of nuances to the position in college and he’ll have to be a quick study to step right into Luke Fickell’s defense in 2014.

Johnnie Dixon

At 5-foot-11 and 198 pounds, Dixon has enough size to compete at wide receiver right away. Another early enrollee, the Florida native will have a little more competition in his position group than McMillan, but it’s still a spot that will be wide open.

While Philly Brown and Chris Fields are gone, Corey Smith and Jeff Greene will get long looks, along with returning players Devin Smith and Evan Spencer. A healthy James Clark will also be a contender for playing time. Dixon will have to beat out a lot of guys to see the field, but he’s got the physical tools to do just that.

Erick Smith

At 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, Smith doesn’t have the same physical advantage at his position as McMillan and Dixon, but his size is sufficient to play defensive back. With Smith, his advantage is instinctual. Smith has a knack for being around the ball.

Smith has more competition in his position group due to Meyer’s outstanding recruiting efforts the last couple of years. The former Glenville Tarblooder also won’t have the advantage of enrolling early. He’ll arrive in the fall with an opportunity to make his mark in year one.

Damon Webb

Speaking of instinctual players, Webb is precisely one of those. Webb has great coverage skills and a terrific fall camp could draw the notice of new co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash. Armani Reeves and Doran Grant seem to be the favorites to lock down the corner spots. But a new coach means new opportunities.

Detroit Cass Tech product Webb eschewed Michigan to play for Urban Meyer. He’ll make his mark on the program at some point. It may be a longshot, but that point may just come in 2014.


Comments Show All Comments

Johnny-Shane_Utah-Falco's picture
+5 HS
d1145fresh's picture

Jayln Holmes could very easily enter this discussion. While the D-Line is loaded with talent I could see him making the two-deep and seeing some playing time. He looked very good in some of all American game highlights.

+3 HS
Seattle Linga's picture

If we can get to 7-8 deep on the D line with serious threats to sack the QB on every play - their fresh legs will dominate the trenches.

+1 HS
Breakawayspeed's picture

The order in which they are listed seems to be about right too. Of the four, McMillen has the best chance to start from game one.  Pass the popcorn...should be interesting

+1 HS
Squirrel Master's picture

I say McMillan,although I think he is a favorite to start really. So he kind of doesn't fit the idea of this story.

Its funny that Smith gets recognized as a player who could be "Bosa-like" in his first year but Lattimore, the more heralded player, isn't. I really think Lattimore is underrated here lately and many are forgetting about him. Very strange when the best Ohio talent in the state is getting overlooked.

I think Dixon will end up getting the dreaded "redshirt". My reasoning is that I see that group in front of him start to put it together. I just don't see him beating out Green or Thomas let alone Devin and Spencer just yet. But I was terribly wrong about Eli Apple, so who knows.

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

chirobuck's picture

I could not disagree more about Lattimore, I thought he was the most overrated guy in this class.....not saying he won't turn into a good player at some point but he didn't look nearly as smooth or comfortable in coverage as smith and I am not surprised at all that they choose Smith as the more likely guy to make an immediate impact


^ best post ever ^

otrain2416's picture
  • McMillan definitely could if C. Grant tanks. In all honesty I'm at the point where if him and Raekwon look to be the same talent level at Fall camp, I'm starting Raekwon cuz he just has a higher upside at this point. 
  • Dixon has a great future but I don't see next year being his year to start and shine with D. Smith, E. Spencer, and Dontre coming back plus the emergence of Jalin Marshall, Jeff Greene, and Michael Thomas
  • Erick Smith will definitely battle it out at safety and STAR and push for PT in nickle or dime packages
  • Webb could definitely push for time at corner. Grant has one spot locked down. The other corner is going to be a battle between Reeves, Conley, Apple, Webb, and Lattimore IMO.
  • I'm also going to throw Knox and J.Jones names in there as we recently lost 4 starting OL and aside from Decker and Elflein I see 3 spots that are wide open for competition. 

We were born to love Ohio State and hate that team up north.

+1 HS
ab1993's picture

I agree with Knox and Jones. There's a reason freshmen usually don't take over "skill" positions and Joey Bosa took over in the d-line. From what I've heard, they're both putting on a lot of weight and I wouldn't be surprised by the time they're here, that they are physically ready.

2morrow's picture

Agree - especially with your first point - and any position that is close in performance level - the nod should go to the younger guy.

nburns18's picture

Mcmillan will start but Johnnie Dixon will make the most impact in my opinion. Gonna be a fun season

"You win with people." -Woody Hayes

ab1993's picture

No love for Jamarco and Big Meech? 

Edit: As I said in a previous reply, I've heard they're both putting on a lot of weight, so I wouldn't be surprised if they're physically ready by the fall.

otrain2416's picture

Bosa starting over Washington would be the equivalent of Erick Smith coming in and starting over Vonn Bell IMO. 

We were born to love Ohio State and hate that team up north.

HighBallAce's picture

Did I miss something or is there a reason Curtis Samuel didn't make the list? Seems like he and Noah Brown could do it as well?

+1 HS
HattanBuck85's picture

Curtis Samuel. I think we could see greater production from him in his freshman year than Dontre did last year.

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"The height of human desire is what wins, whether it's on Normandy Beach or in Ohio Stadium." - Woody Hayes

HighBallAce's picture

I honestly think Samuel will be much better than Wilson. I think Wilson will do more damage at wideout and would be better served to forget about the hback role. That is unless he puts on some decent size which he may have.

seafus26's picture

I agree. Samuel could end up religating Wilson to returns only

Go Bucks and michigan STILL SUCKS!

Hovenaut's picture

Wouldn't be disappointed with any of the young Bucks breaking out early, but I'm sure hoping it's on the def(linebacker)ensive side of the ball.

kyletp2's picture

No there will not be a next Bosa in the 2014 class.  But there will be a next Bosa is the 2016 class.....Nick Bosa!!

You are lame if you tweet!

+1 HS
PittBuckeye's picture

I hope that Webb, or anyone really ends up beating out Reeves, I can't take another season of what he did last year.

+4 HS
Buckabroad's picture

I think McMillan will be the next Bosa. I also think Samuel will find time in the Slot and returning kick-offs. Knox probably will make the 2-deep on the OL. I think he will be a good one.

"The minute we stop expecting greatness, we become Wisconsin."

ab1993's picture

Does anyone else agree with me in thinking that Bosa could possibly earn the Heisman during his college career?

InvertMyVeer's picture

Pretty sure a defensive player would have to cure cancer to win it at this point.

Football is complicated...

+6 HS
geoffrsc's picture

So kinda like what an Ohio State coach would have to do to win B1G COY.


+7 HS
Patriot4098's picture

It's possible from a MLB or DE, but the stats would have to be enormous. Said player would probably have to be THE superstar of a top 3 defense on a team playing for the NC. And possibly do that two years in a row just to get enough recognition to make a run in the second year. DEFENSE just isn't sexy enough.

"Evil shenanigans!"     - Mac

allinosu's picture

Webb. Next year for Mcmillan

BassDropper's picture

I have had a feeling for the past few weeks that Dixon is going to be a superstar as a freshman. One that everybody knows around the country, and one that opponents fear as soon as he steps on the field.


Ahh Saturday's picture

CG v RM is the battle of the spring for sure.  My money is still on Grant, but the only thing I'd count on is that the starter will be stronger for having had the competition.

chirobuck's picture

I'm not sure how an O lineman didn't make this list given the guess would be Knox but J. Jones has a good shot too


^ best post ever ^

GoBucksOSU's picture

It did not surprise me at all of Bosa's great performance as a freshman and it will not surprise if Raekwon McMillan also performs great as a freshman.

teddyballgame's picture

Christ, are you serious about Reeves being a favorite to lock down a corner spot?  Did we learn nothing from last year?

inb4 "but he's got experience"....yeah BAD experience


-1 HS
BroJim's picture

Hopefully it's Nick Bosa, but this season I think it can be J. Marshall.

I season my simple food with hunger

Jbucks's picture

double post

Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it-John 1:5 SEC meet Ohio State, Ohio State meet SEC

Jbucks's picture

I wanna say Booker will outplay McMillan stat wise, but I cant seem to get over the fact Kwon is here working & Booker isnt, Jaylyn Holmes could very well back up Noah Spence this year but Tyquan Lewis, Jamal Marcus already there I could c him redshirting & taking over as starter next year (1st all B1G Team) when Spence leaves for NFL after this year.

Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it-John 1:5 SEC meet Ohio State, Ohio State meet SEC

Seattle Linga's picture

This type of topic gets me so jacked up for the fall season.

+1 HS
Shangheyed's picture

So many holes with open competition we should see some Bosa out of a few players... indeed will be exciting off season!    Oline, DB and LB should all have Freshmen in the two deep.

WezBuck28's picture

It must really suck having sooo many weapons to have to try and choose only fear is transfers from being so deep..let's just hope this doesn't happen!

BenArazi4's picture

It would be dumb to have Samuel replace Wilson which I think he has the potential to do.  He's bigger and faster but I think Wilson has much better movies and the ability to cut back much quicker.  You can bet your bottoms Meyer will find a way to get Wilson, Samuel and EzeE on the field at the same time.