As the season continues to grow closer, Ohio State’s depth chart at each position is beginning to take shape. After losing 16 starters, including 12 to the NFL draft, this will be one of the program’s youngest teams in recent memory.
Join Landof10.com as we break down each of the 10 position groups and what Buckeye fans can expect out of each one this fall.
Today we’ll examine Larry Johnson’s next wave of defensive ends, tasked with replacing one of the most disruptive defensive linemen in Ohio State history, NFL first-round draft pick Joey Bosa.
Assessing the roster
Lost: Joey Bosa (NFL)
Added: Nick Bosa (2016 signee), Jonathon Cooper (2016 signee)
Returning: Sam Hubbard (RS sophomore), Tyquan Lewis (RS junior), Jalyn Holmes (junior), Darius Slade (RS sophomore)
Projected depth chart
- Starters: Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis
- Rotating in: Jalyn Holmes, Dremont Jones, Jashon Cornell, Nick Bosa, Jonathon Cooper
The top three returning defensive ends for Larry Johnson have all played a number of meaningful minutes in their career, a big boost to a group that returns only three players with any college playing experience. The leaders of the group will be Sam Hubbard and Tyquan Lewis, who have emerged as leaders on and off the field.
Beyond the starters, the Buckeyes will excel by rotating top-level talent – Nick Bosa, Jashon Cornell and Dremont Jones – who are capable of playing both end positions or who will play inside when the need for more pass-rush specialists presents itself. Overall, the consistency and energy from this group should be a major boost to a defense that replaces multiple starters.
As noted, only three returning defensive linemen return have played experience. As good as Hubbard and Lewis have been (6.5 sacks and 8 sacks in 2015, respectively), neither have had to face the same pressure as Joey Bosa and Adolphus Washington, who each absorbed double-teams that allowed others to run a bit more freely. Lewis, meanwhile, has fully recovered from a biceps injury that sidelined him for most of spring practice, but we’ll see how he responds to his first major injury.
Darius Slade, who played a bit as a redshirt freshman in 2015, ruptured his Achilles and will miss the entire 2016 season. Nick Bosa is returning from a torn ACL so he has not been able to go full speed. The Buckeyes will bring him along slowly to make sure that he’s healthy to play this fall.
Dremont Jones and Cornell – who will take snaps at a number of positions – may be better suited at defensive tackle. Jones hasn’t played competitively since Fall 2014 after tearing an ACL playing basketball that following spring. Can he stay healthy and be versatile enough to play an important role?
What about the local kid, Cooper, a 5-star 2016 signee? He’s got some weight to put on before he’s expected to play a part in the Buckeyes defensive plans, but he can provide speed off the edge and a spark like Holmes has done the last two years.
What to expect
If Hubbard and Lewis are able to stay healthy and on the field for the Buckeyes in 2016, don’t expect anything less than what we saw in 2014 and 2015 from Larry Johnson’s defensive ends. Hubbard has been working tirelessly to not just live up to the standard that Joey Bosa set as a pass-rusher, but also as a force in stopping the run.
“I wanted to get stronger and be dominant in the run game,” Hubbard said during the Buckeyes 2016 Media Day. “My biggest thing was becoming an efficient pass rusher, which is not an easy thing to do. It’s taken a lot of work with Coach Johnson and watching a lot of film. I just want to improve my game all around.”
Expect Hubbard and Lewis to give All-Big Ten level efforts and move on to the NFL following this season. Expect Holmes to become a pass-rush specialist and a game-changing defensive end who will become a star in 2017. Expect younger players, such as Bosa, Cooper, Jones and Cornell, to gradually improve and, ultimately, be ready by the end of the season.