Better Know A Buckeye: Joshua Mickens Has the Pass-Rushing Ability to Be an Impact Player for Ohio State, But Must Bulk Up First

By Josh Poloha on April 20, 2023 at 10:10 am
Joshua Mickens

Better Know A Buckeye is our look at every member of Ohio State’s 2023 recruiting class and how they became Buckeyes as they prepare to begin their OSU careers this fall.

Ohio State didn't offer Joshua Mickens until nearly six weeks before Early Signing Day, but that was enough time for the Buckeyes to flip the Indianapolis native from LSU.

Rated as the No. 17 edge rusher (No. 119 overall) in the 2023 class, Mickens is the second-highest-ranked defensive lineman in Ohio State's class and brings a high-upside skill set to the Buckeyes as an edge rusher.

Joshua Mickens

  • Size: 6-5/225
  • Position: DE
  • School: Lawrence Central (Indianapolis, Indiana)
  • 247 Composite: ★★★★
  • Composite Rank: #17 EDGE
  • Overall Rank: #119

How He Became A Buckeye

It's not too often that a then-committed high school prospect receives an offer from another school in November and then signs with said school just over a month later. But that's exactly what Mickens did.

Previously committed to LSU, Mickens received an offer from Ohio State after visiting Columbus for the Indiana game on Nov. 12, an offer that seemed to indicate that the Buckeye staff was confident they could flip Mickens' commitment from the Tigers. He then made an official visit to OSU for the Michigan game, just two weeks after he made his first trip of the year to Columbus. His first visit proved to Larry Johnson and company that they wanted Mickens; his second visit proved to Mickens that he wanted to be a Buckeye.

"When I realized I would decommit from LSU, I just wanted to go somewhere where I knew I could be close to home and just develop to be the best player I can be," Mickens said. "And I knew that once they give me the chance, I knew that place would Ohio State."

The 6-foot-5, 225-pound defensive end decommitted from LSU, a move that seemed to indicate that he would flip his commitment to Ohio State. That proved to be the case when he signed with the Buckeyes less than four weeks later.

High School Years

Mickens proved his dominance during his final two years of high school. As a junior, he had 23 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, five quarterback hurries and five forced fumbles in 11 games. He followed that up with a stellar senior season, totaling 74 tackles, 20.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks, two quarterback hurries, three forced fumbles and one pass deflection.

Yet another commit that also played basketball in high school, Mickens proved his athleticism both on the hardwood and on the gridiron. He also won the Midwest Indoor Championships shot put title his junior year with a 52-0 throw. In all, he had three throws during indoor and outdoor competitions that went beyond 50 feet.

Immediate Impact

Mickens has the talent to become an impact player for the Buckeyes, but his size will likely hold him back from getting any significant playing time as a freshman. Listed at 225 pounds, Mickens is currently Ohio State's lightest defensive end by 24 pounds (Omari Abor, 249). His first year in Columbus will consist of bulking up in the weight room and continuing to add tools to his already solid repertoire as an edge rusher.

"By the time I get to campus, I should be like 234," Mickens told Eleven Warriors in March. "I think my body will be able to hold like 250."

"Really just a physical thing. Like, I gotta step up and get myself physically ready. It's just like, I gotta get back in the lab. I just have to do things necessary to be able to step on campus, be able to compete and just be able to work and be at a level where I can get some playing time my freshman year."

With JT Tuimoloau, Jack Sawyer, Kenyatta Jackson and Caden Curry taking up the two-deep on the depth chart, playing time will be hard to come by for the freshman defensive ends this fall.

Long-Term Impact

If Mickens follows Mickey Marotti's plan and puts on plenty of muscle and takes in everything that Larry Johnson says in order to develop and reach his maximum potential in his first year as a Buckeye, he’ll have a chance to earn a spot in the rotation in his second year.

If Tuimoloau and Sawyer decide to forgo their remaining eligibility and enter the 2024 NFL Draft, Mickens and fellow freshman Jason Moore will have an opening to earn spots in the rotation along with Curry, Jackson and Abor in 2024.

With a high motor, a quick first step, hand skills and great chase-down speed, Mickens has the tools to be a difference-maker for the Buckeyes once he gets a little bigger.

Given his leaner frame, Mickens could also be a natural candidate to play the Jack linebacker position in Jim Knowles’ defense, which Mickens believes would suit his game well.

"I think, personally, it's the perfect fit for my game," Mickens said. "I'll be able to show my athleticism. Even in the league now, it's all about being athletic and being strong. Especially at the linebacker position, being able to be really versatile, being able to jump in coverage, be able to pass rush and be able to do all of those things."

Player Comparison: Noah Spence

To get the most out of Mickens' skill set, Ohio State will likely use him as a hybrid edge rusher, which could mean having his hand in the dirt at times but also allow him to play as a standup outside linebacker. 

When it comes to hybrid edge rushers in recent memory along Ohio State's defensive line, there's no better comparison than Spence, at least in terms of what took place on the field. As a freshman, Spence had just 12 tackles and one sack. He turned it up a notch in his second year at Ohio State, totaling 50 tackles, 7.5 sacks and 14 tackes for loss in what would be his final season as a Buckeye before his suspension by the Big Ten and eventual transfer to Eastern Kentucky.

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