With the Ohio State Buckeyes set to kick off their 2018 football season in 11 days, WFNY will have a bit of a preview for the scarlet and gray before they begin their season this fall. Although the Buckeyes lost plenty of talent either due to graduation or the NFL Draft, it doesn’t mean that they will have to rebuild, they will instead reload, much like they have in the past. In fact, the word rebuild most likely doesn’t even exist in dictionaries across Columbus. You could argue that this year’s team is somehow better than last year’s in some ways. It truly shows just how deep this roster is, thanks to the recruiting efforts by the coaching staff, development of the players, and just how talented these kids are while they try and mesh together to potentially win a national championship at season’s end.
Today, we take a look at Ohio State’s defensive line, which is one of the best in the country in 2018.
Two years after Joey Bosa was selected with the third-overall pick by the San Diego Chargers in the 2016 NFL Draft, Ohio State had three defensive linemen chosen in the first 102 picks of this past April’s draft.1 Losing all that talent, especially this offseason, usually means that the defensive line would take a major step back, right? Wrong.
What if I told you that even after three Ohio State defensive linemen were taken in the first 102 picks of the 2018 NFL Draft, they somehow would improve. It may be hard to believe, but that seems to be the case for the Buckeyes this fall.
After losing four captains on the defensive line,2 the Buckeyes have restocked their defensive front with a plethora of talent. Although they lost those four, Larry Johnson’s crew has restocked the starting defensive line with Nick Bosa, Dre’Mont Jones, Robert Landers, and Chase Young. If any of those names aren’t household names now, they will be sooner rather than later, at least for Buckeyes fans.
Much like his brother, Joey, Nick has a good chance to be the best defensive end in the country in what will most likely be his last season in Columbus. Already considered the best player in college football in 2018 by Pro Football Focus, Bosa has all the hype entering the 2018 season, which he will likely deliver on this fall in order to impress NFL teams.
Every opposing team tries to throw multiple blocks at him, but even when he is double-teamed, Bosa still somehow finds a way to get to the opposing quarterback. And when he is double- or even triple-teamed, the 6-foot-4, 263-pound defensive end frees up space for his teammates to get in the opposing backfield. While he racks up plenty of stats himself, Bosa allows other Ohio State defensive linemen to have a much easier time given that the main focus of the offensive line is on Bosa.
He won’t get all the attention given the hype that Bosa will receive this season, but Young is the next-big-thing for Ohio State at defensive end. He will prove that this fall.
Whether it’s his quickness, ability to beat opponents in a variety of ways, his size, or his athletic ability, Bosa has the ability to get to the ball no matter where it may be. Having already totaled 63 tackles, 23 tackles for loss, 13.5 sacks, two passes defended, and one forced fumble during his first two years as a Buckeye, the junior will likely improve on that this season.
Unfortunately, due to this fall all but certainly being Nick’s last with Ohio State because it’s likely he will forego his senior season and enter the NFL Draft, this upcoming season will be the last time a Bosa brother dons the scarlet and gray. With talents like Joey and Nick, Buckeye Nation wishes there were more Bosas that could call Columbus home for about four years, but unfortunately, there isn’t.
Lined up on the opposite side of Bosa on the defensive line, Young will be a beneficiary of the offensive line focusing on his teammate, making his job even easier.
Known as “The Predator”, his nickname alone gives away just how good of a defensive end the sophomore can be. He’s one of those players that just looks like he is a dominant football player, and he has already proven that he can be. During his first season in Columbus, Young had 18 tackles, five tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, and one forced fumble in nine games as a true freshman.
The 6-foot-5, 265-pounder already has all the hype, and that will likely only get louder even if he is at times Bosa’s sidekick this fall. Whether it’s his hair or just the swagger he displays, Young is the type of physical specimen that just looks like he can dominate his opposition. He has both the physical attributes and pass-rushing ability to be a dominant edge rusher. With more playing time, his five-star potential will turn into reality for the Buckeyes.
Bosa will likely be the Ohio State defensive end that garners all the attention, both from the opposing team and spectators, but make sure to keep an eye on Young. If you don’t, he will likely stick out anyways due to how often he’s in the opponent’s backfield.
Set to start for the first time at Ohio State, some may wonder how (and why) he didn’t start as a true freshman once the season rolls around. It’s not due to the fact that Young wasn’t ready, it was just the talent that was ahead of him on the depth chart at defensive end, three of which were drafted in the first 102 picks of this past April’s NFL Draft. Young will not only be a beneficiary of getting more snaps, but he will benefit from opposing teams and offensive linemen putting much of their focus on Bosa during games as well.
After deciding to stay at Ohio State following his redshirt sophomore season in 2017 and back-to-back terrific seasons as a Buckeye, Jones will look to improve on a collegiate career that has already been quite impressive as an interior lineman.
During his first two seasons in Columbus, the 6-foot-3, 290-pound lineman totaled 72 tackles, nine tackles for loss, one sack, and two passes defended in 23 games. In an expanded role this season, he will not only improve on those numbers but be able to shine even more as the main part of what should be a dominant defensive line.
Many project Bosa to be a top-5 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, but he’s not the only potential first-rounder the Buckeyes have on the defensive line in 2018. With a solid season, Jones can secure his spot as a first-round selection as well, continuing the legacy of yet another Ohio State defensive lineman getting selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, something that has happened quite a bit over the years.
After being a rotational player during his first two seasons as a Buckeye, Landers is set to be the starting nose tackle this season.
As the nose tackle, Landers’ main priority is to clog up the middle and take on as many blockers as possible, allowing his teammates to get into the opposing backfield. With a starting front that features Bosa, Young, and Jones alongside Landers, his job is made much easier. None of the focus will be on him even though he is super talented.
Arguably one of the quickest defensive tackles Ohio State has ever had, the redshirt junior has had 26 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, one sack, and one fumble recovery in 15 games so far as a Buckeye. He can improve on those stats with much more playing time this fall.
Not only is the starting front extremely talented, but there’s plenty of depth in the group as well. Whether it’s Jashon Cornell, Haskell Garrett, Antwuan Jackson, Tommy Togiai, Jonathon Cooper, or Tyreke Smith backing up the front four, Ohio State has nothing to worry about in terms of the defensive line. With all that depth, defensive line coach Larry Johnson will likely use some rotations as well, much like he has over the past few seasons. It will allow all the defensive linemen to remain fresh while also giving plenty of playing time and experience to the younger players as well.
“No surprise to anyone in Buckeye Nation, Larry Johnson has another talented group this year,” Ohio State interim head coach Ryan Day said in a statement last Friday. “It doesn’t take much to notice how close this unit is, and the leadership from Nick Bosa, Dre’Mont Jones, Robert Landers, Jashon Cornell, Davon Hamilton, Jonathan Cooper and Chase Young.
“We’re really impressed with the young freshmen as well; there are some individuals in that freshman class who are positioning themselves to play this fall. Depth at this position group might be the strongest on the team.”
Ohio State’s football team has lived in Michigan’s nightmares over the last decade and a half. This fall, the Buckeyes defensive line could live in the nightmares of opposing offenses, much like they have ever since Johnson joined the Urban Meyer’s staff in Columbus in 2014.