Ohio State defense features new faces, same expectations
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Nobody needs reminding what Ohio State will be missing on defense, but here’s the list just in case: Joey Bosa. Adolphus Washington. Tommy Schutt. Darron Lee. Joshua Perry. Eli Apple. Vonn Bell. Tyvis Powell.
That’s six draft picks and three first-rounders, a staggering amount of talent to replace on one side of the ball. But Ohio State didn’t recruit players to watch from afar, so a whole new generation of blue-chip talent is about to get its shot. There are already players Buckeye fans know about – defensive end Sam Hubbard and linebacker Dante Booker, for example – who have seen significant reserve duty, but there are others like safety Malik Hooker and cornerback Denzel Ward fighting to be starters despite seeing few snaps in their young careers.
That’s to say nothing of the true freshmen – guys like defensive ends Nick Bosa and Jonathon Cooper, linebacker Keandre Jones and cornerback Jordan Fuller – all of whom ranked in the top 150 of the 247 Sports composite rankings in 2016 and figure to get a shot at playing time.
Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell doesn’t seem to be treating inexperience as an excuse, saying they’re not protecting Nick Bosa from the comparisons to his All-American brother Joey and not shying away from letting the linebackers know what’s expected of them.
“We believe that pressure is going to continue to make you grow,” he said. “We talk about it. We say ‘Hey, there’s a standard set.’ At the WILL linebacker spot, it’s not just No. 37 (Joshua Perry). There was a guy who wore No. 10, Ryan Shazier, and a guy who wore No. 47, A.J. Hawk. There’s a standard set, and that’s what we expect you to live up to.
“I believe young men live up to what you expect of them. If we just expect them to be the next starter, then they’ll be the next starter. If we expect them to be the next All-American and great one, I believe they’ll live up to it.”
That’s also true of the older players on the team, guys who have waited their chance behind All-Americans but now find themselves being tested by freshmen. Linebacker Chris Worley is positioned to take over for Lee, but he’ll have to fend off a challenge from Jerome Baker.
When he was asked Tuesday if losing eight starters bought the new guys any leeway, he let out a laugh.
“Coach Meyer doesn’t change the expectations, and other coaches don’t, as well,” Worley said. “That’s the bar. Either you reach it or you have to get out.”