Jalyn Holmes heard a familiar question, one he seems to have lost count how many times has been asked already and one he’s surely to hear again on numerous occasions in the future.
Ohio State’s junior defensive end could only smile before answering.
How will this defense go about replacing Joey Bosa?
“I hear that so much,” Holmes said, laughing. “But you can’t really replace him. … We just gotta go hard every day, work on fundamentals and we’re going to make a name for ourselves and fill our own shoes.”
Holmes certainly isn’t wrong in his thinking; the Buckeyes can’t simply plug a new player in and replace one like Bosa. After all, we’re talking about a two-time All-American here who ranks third all time at Ohio State in sacks — despite playing just three seasons — with 26. It’s likely Bosa winds up a top-five pick in the upcoming NFL Draft; you don’t just replace a guy like that.
So the Buckeyes will be forced to do things a little differently. They’re going to have to replace Bosa's production with a number of different guys.
“My philosophy is you don’t try to replace them, you just try to find a guy to raise their game to the next level. If you can find a guy to raise the bar a little bit, you’re good,” Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson said. “I think the talent is there, I think these guys are really talented players, they want to be really good and that’s special.
"What I do as a coach is try and get them to raise their game and that’s what we’re working on.”
Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis and Holmes will be the primary players called on to replace Bosa at defensive end. A year ago, Lewis led Ohio State with eight sacks as he endured a breakout campaign starting opposite the All-American. Hubbard recorded 6.5 sacks a year ago used primarily as the third defensive end, a number that ranked second on the team. Holmes appeared sparingly in all 13 games and recorded one sack; he’ll take on an expanded role next fall.
Joey Bosa's younger brother, Nick, a five-star recruit on the defensive line, will also be on campus in June and Johnson said he expects Nick Bosa to be heavily involved in the rotation once he arrives. Remember, as a true freshman, Joey Bosa appeared in all 14 games for Ohio State and recorded 7.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss.
If it's going to be done "by committee," the Buckeyes aren't short on options.
"Joey was a great player, but we’ve grown up a lot from last year and we’ve got guys coming in that we’re just reloading," Lewis said. "Just a bunch of good dudes; there’s a wave of guys. ... The rotation is good, everything’s good right now.”
The Buckeyes say they're not worried about how they replace Bosa, and maybe that's the best approach. You simply can't replace a player who offensive coordinators had to scheme against and a guy who simply changed games every time he stepped out on the field.
Hubbard says he doesn't want to be Bosa, that he wants to be his own player. Holmes echoed that same sentiment. Maybe that's a good thing for Ohio State. It's probably better players don't try to do too much.
But even in life post-Joey Bosa, expectations aren't changing for the Buckeyes' defensive line.
“He’s such a great player, but he’s gone now,” Hubbard said. “That’s the level of play that Coach Meyer said he wants to hold our defensive ends to: Steve Miller, Joey Bosa, Noah Spence. Those are great players that came before us and if we have any drop-off then our possibility of losing the game is higher.
“We’ve got to continue the level of play that’s expected at Ohio State and that’s a high level.”