When Nick Bosa went down with a groin injury that would ultimately end his Ohio State career in the Buckeyes’ third game of this season against TCU, it was obvious that the Buckeyes would have a tough time replacing his talent on the field.
As Urban Meyer reflected back on the Buckeyes’ season to date on Sunday, however, he said the loss of Bosa’s presence around the team was just as impactful as the loss of his football-playing ability.
“When Nick Bosa went down, that changed our team,” Meyer said. “And I didn't realize how much until witnessing the change made. It changed everybody not seeing him. I know he's a great player, but he was so much more than that.”
Going into the season, Bosa was expected to not only be the Buckeyes’ best player, but also one of their top team leaders. He was selected by his teammates in August as one of seven team captains for the 2018 season.
After undergoing a bilateral repair of his groin muscle in September, however, Bosa had a tough decision to make. Projected to be one of the top picks in the 2019 NFL draft, Bosa – who faced a 10-to-12-week recovery, and likely would not have been able to play in any pre-bowl games – decided to withdraw from Ohio State to focus fully on his recovery and begin preparing for the next step of his career.
For Bosa, it was a decision made with the best interest of his individual future in mind, and Meyer understood that. Meyer's support of Bosa has been unwavering; on the day Bosa announced his decision to leave, Meyer called Bosa a “first-class guy” and said he and his family – also including his older brother Joey – had been “awesome for Ohio State and the program.”
Even if Bosa hadn’t been healthy enough to play another down for the Buckeyes, though, Meyer still would have loved to have him around.
“Nick Bosa was your rock, man,” Meyer said. “He was your guy. He was your guy at practice. He was (director of sports performance Mickey) Marotti's guy. And I know if I feel that way about him, imagine what the defense felt about him and the team.”
“I know he's a great player, but he was so much more than that.”– Urban Meyer on Nick Bosa
It’s hard to quantify how much one player can mean to an 11-player unit, but Ohio State’s defense struggled for much of the season in Bosa’s absence, and his departure certainly was one reason why. While the Buckeyes had more issues at the linebacker level and in the secondary than they did on their defensive line even without Bosa, he was a player who impacted the game on most plays when he was on the field.
Based on what Meyer and other defensive linemen have said about Bosa, though, his departure perhaps had such a big effect on Ohio State’s defense not simply because of the plays he made on the field, but also because of his stature as a team leader and the psychological effect that his departure had on the players who were used to lining up around him.
“When you start off the new year with five leaders and you end up with four, and one of those leaders was a major impact on the team – not just the defense – it affects you a lot,” said Ohio State defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones.
Ideally, Bosa would have stayed healthy and continued playing for the Buckeyes all season, and perhaps that would have much the difference Ohio State needed to make the College Football Playoff. Bosa began the season in spectacular fashion – recording 14 total tackles, six tackles for loss, four sacks, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery for a touchdown in the equivalent of just 1.5 full games – and his intent was to play all season. Bosa’s father, John, told Eleven Warriors in September that it was “a tough pill to swallow” for his career to end the way it did.
While the Buckeyes didn’t make the College Football Playoff without Bosa, though, they still managed to overcome his departure to win 11 of their 12 regular-season games and follow that up by winning the Big Ten Championship Game, 45-24 over Northwestern, on Saturday night.
And while he isn’t at Ohio State with the rest of his teammates anymore, his fellow defensive linemen have said that they continue to talk to him regularly.
“Outside of football, me and Nick are still friends,” Jones said. “I still talk to him. Chase still talks to him. We all still talk to him. Nothing changed.”
Ohio State defensive end Jonathon Cooper also said this past week that Bosa’s departure has not changed his bond with his now-former teammate.
“He’s always going to be my brother,” Cooper said. “My brother for life.”
Bosa hasn’t been in attendance for any of Ohio State’s games since the Buckeyes’ seventh game of the season against Minnesota (the weekend before he announced his departure from Ohio State, which came just days before the Buckeyes’ 49-20 loss to Purdue). That could change for the Buckeyes’ final game of the season, however, as they play Washington in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California – near where Bosa now lives with his brother, who now plays for the Los Angeles Chargers.
See u there :)— Nick Bosa (@nbsmallerbear) December 2, 2018