Urban Meyer wasn’t completely sold.
“I didn’t think much of him, to be honest with you,” Ohio State’s head coach says. “I thought he was OK, kind of a quiet kid.”
Sometimes, Meyer is more than willing to be wrong.
Such is the case with Tyquan Lewis, the Buckeyes’ fourth-year junior at defensive end who Meyer now refers to as “a man’s man.” Meyer didn’t necessarily see the type of player Lewis has now become back when he recruited the Tarboro, North Carolina native, but he’s more than happy it turned out this way.
“I love that guy,” Meyer said. “He raises the level of play of those around him. He’s a very good player now and I thought he was just a ham and egger, kind of a worker.
“[Defensive line coach Larry Johnson] has done a very good job with him. … He’s one of the top leaders on our team.”
Lewis is the unquestioned leader of an Ohio State defensive line that’s played at a really high level the last few weeks. He leads the Buckeyes this season in sacks (6.0) and tackles for loss (8.5) and has answered any questions about his ability to produce playing without Joey Bosa at the other defensive end spot.
Part of the reason for that is the way he plays. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone on Ohio State’s defense who plays harder than the 6-foot-4, 266-pounder.
“You just go to work, no distractions, just come in and go to work,” Lewis said. “That’s all I do. That’s all I know. Work hard. No slacking. Just got to work and that’s all I can tell you.”
One of three defensive captains, Lewis has a duty to guide the Buckeyes along with linebacker Raekwon McMillan and cornerback Gareon Conley. Meyer called Lewis “a great leader” on Monday and even went so far as to recently call both Lewis and McMillan “the J.T. Barrett of our defense.”
“Tyquan is a competitor on the field. He has a drive and he’s very vocal on the field, out there making plays,” he said. “When we’re down or we need a spark, Tyquan is one of the guys, along with myself, who is a vocal guy who talks to the team and gets us up. He’s a very special athlete as you can see but he’s vocal as well.”
That’s why when Jonathon Cooper, a true freshman defensive end for Ohio State, recorded his first career sack during Saturday’s win over Maryland, Lewis might have been the happiest person in the stadium.
“Coop, that’s like my little brother,” Lewis said. “I know what he’s going through as a freshman, he’s probably going through and thinking like, ‘How do I get through practice?’ But he puts his head down and goes to work. Just follows the leaders and goes to work.”
That’s exactly what Lewis does each and every day, too, and it’s why he’s blossomed into one of Meyer’s favorite players, a captain and one of the best defensive ends in the Big Ten.
Meyer needed some convincing four years ago, but now, Ohio State’s defense simply wouldn’t be as good as it is without Lewis.
“We’re playing at a really, really high level,” Lewis said. “Guys are doing the little things more. It means a lot more, especially in the month of November. You can see things have bonded together and guys are coming closer together because this is when everything really counts.”