COLUMBUS, Ohio — Nick Bosa and Chase Young bring the star power to Ohio State’s defensive line, but Jonathon Cooper could be just as impactful in 2018.
Though he wasn’t a 5-star recruit like Bosa and Young, Cooper was about as close as it gets. Playing for Gahanna (Ohio) Lincoln in the Columbus suburbs, Cooper was the No. 33 overall recruit in the 247Sports composite rankings for the Class of 2016, just seven spots away from 5-star status.
He walked into the most loaded position group on the team. Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis and Jalyn Holmes all could be off the board in the first three rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft, and Bosa and Young have the potential to be top-10 overall picks in the future. As such, Cooper has been overshadowed a bit during his first two seasons at Ohio State, but he’ll get his chance to make his mark this fall.
“We’re passing the torch to him, and I know he’s going to take off with it,” Holmes said after the Cotton Bowl. “He’s got a motor and the heart of three men. That’s the most unselfish dude I know, man. The success that you see from me, Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis — it’s because of guys like him.
“You can tell by the way he’s played, next year you’re going to see a guy with No. 18 on his jersey play relentlessly, play hard and he doesn’t get tired for some crazy reason. He’s a special person. To see a dude like that, dudes like Coop always win.”
Ohio State went six defensive ends deep last season, but the rotation was mostly the top group of Bosa, Lewis, Hubbard and Holmes, with Young and Cooper supplementing and also getting snaps in blowouts. Although Ohio State’s depth prevented him from getting as many snaps as he would have earned almost anywhere else in the country, Cooper still showed he can make plays. He finished the 2017 campaign with 2 sacks for 17 yards and 3 total tackles for loss.
With only three scholarship defensive ends currently on the roster — the Buckeyes also have been using defensive tackle Jashon Cornell at end this spring — Cooper is poised to get the amount of reps that can turn him into a star.
“I wouldn’t call it waiting my turn, but I know it’s my year to step up,” Cooper said.
Thus far, the reviews have been great. In his first spring news conference, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer called Cooper “fantastic,” and defensive line coach Larry Johnson also has been impressed with Cooper’s performance as he looks to seize a bigger role.
“He has a chance to make an impact at the defensive end position,” Johnson said. “He’s had a really great winter, great job in the weight room – gotten stronger, gotten bigger. This is his moment right now, it really is. And he’s doing everything he can to make sure he grabs it.”