It was clear from the beginning Joey Bosa wasn’t going to be an average freshman.
For starters, the Fort Lauderdale native was simply massive upon arriving in Columbus last summer. At 6-foot-5 and 270 pounds of solid muscle, Bosa looked the part of an All-American defensive end before playing a single snap of collegiate football.
He did his best to play the part, too. Bosa earned a starting job on an otherwise talented and deep defensive line and finished the season with 44 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks.
Those are numbers that gave even coach Urban Meyer pause.
“He’s a starting defensive lineman as a true freshman at Ohio State, which is quite a mouthful,” Meyer said in October.
“He’s an impact player and I’ve never really had a freshman defensive lineman (do that).”
Because Bosa wasn’t your average freshman. It’s also abundantly clear now Bosa won’t be an average anything going forward.
“He’ll be a marked guy,” defensive line coach Larry Johnson said.
“(Teams are) gonna turn protection to him … It’s gonna be a different game than you saw last year because they know who he is.”
That’s the beauty and the curse of success. He’s not another name on the roster or another face in the crowd.
He’s already been named to the Lombardi and Bednarik award watch lists and the kind of expectations associated with such honors will continue to mount. They were there before, sure. But not quite like this.
“It’s great to get all this attention and everything but it never really affected me. I’m still a freshman, they still pick on me,” Bosa said in April. “I’m still the new kid pretty much.”
But really, Bosa might as well be considered a veteran on a defense that’s undergoing an overhaul after unraveling last season.
He’s going to anchor an Ohio State defensive line that has the potential to be among the best in the country. And the kid's only a sophomore.
The signs of such potential were there last year.
“He doesn't get tired. He's so under control for a young guy. It's like he doesn't get real emotion,” defensive coordinator Luke Fickell said days before losing to Clemson in the Orange Bowl.
“He'll get a sack and probably (his) heart rate goes up to about 95 beats-per-minute, where a similar guy gets a sack and probably his heart rate goes up to about 180. It allows him to continue to be under control, and make a play you don't normally see from a young guy.”
Added Fickell, “He's been around the game, but the ability to control himself emotionally -- control his body -- is something you don't see from a lot of young guys. I mean, I compare him sometimes with Cameron Heyward.
“Cameron Heyward came in and started eight games as a true freshman, started in the national championship game. But different -- much different -- because Cameron was almost an out of control, where just Joey is a much more under control type of guy. Similar size and some things, but different ways as well.”
When you’re drawing comparisons to first-round NFL Draft pick, you’re doing something right.
Of course, a complacent attitude could land Bosa in a slump if he’s not careful.
“I think the key is he doesn’t stay the same. He’s gotta move forward,” Johnson said. “The thing he and I talk about is you gotta forget about last year. It’s about this year.”
And this season, for all intents and purposes, could be the year of Joey Bosa.
“I don’t have a big head,” he said. “I just keep doing what I’m doing.”
It’s served him well so far.