Ryan Donnelly/Land of 10
Ohio State defensive end Chase Young is poised for a prominent role as a sophomore.

Ohio State football: Sorry, opposing quarterbacks; Buckeyes’ pass rush isn’t slowing down

Austin Ward

During the week, Land of 10 reporters following the Buckeyes address pressing questions on the minds of the Ohio State fan base with our daily feature. To ask Austin Ward a question, follow along on Twitter and suggest a topic right here. Check back Monday through Friday as we dive into the Ohio State Question of the Day. Go here to see all of our previous answers.

Initially, it seemed a little hard to believe when Nick Bosa was talking about the potential for Ohio State’s defensive line to be even better than last season, despite suffering key personnel losses. But it hasn’t taken long to come around to that really being possible, thanks in large part to just one glimpse of Chase Young running around the practice field this spring looking like a pass-rushing monster created in a lab. Teaming him up with Bosa on the other end of the line and then coming with a fresh Jonathon Cooper to round out the rotation provides an incredibly strong foundation for the Buckeyes, so I’m taking the over on 45 sacks ― the 2017 total ― this season.

Ohio State-Nick Bosa-defensive line-Rushmen-Buckeyes football-sacks-depth chart
Nick Bosa says he believes Ohio State’s defensive line can be even better this season. (Ryan Donnelly/Land of 10)

Now, the defensive line won’t be able to clear that total alone. When the Silver Bullets are at their best, they’re utilizing their athleticism at linebacker with blitz packages off the edge that enhance the work that is already being done in the trenches. The Buckeyes are obviously a handful for any opponent, whether they add an extra body to the pass rush or not. Double-teaming Bosa or Young leaves one-on-one matchups elsewhere with Dre’Mont Jones lurking on the inside along with the possibility of a linebacker joining the fray. It’s almost an inevitability that the Buckeyes will be racking up sacks in bunches.

One question that position coach Larry Johnson won’t be able to answer this spring is just how deep his rotation at end will be. The Buckeyes won’t have 2018 signees Tyreke Smith or Tyler Friday around to work with until the summer, so at least for the moment it doesn’t look like Johnson will be able to roll as many players through the lineup as he did last year with Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis and Jalyn Holmes all sharing the load with Bosa. But with the experienced trio Johnson does have on hand to work with this spring, he can afford to turn his attention to the inside spot alongside Jones ― who is expected to have more of a presence in the Rushmen package this season on passing downs to show off his quickness and ability to get to the quarterback. Robert Landers has shown a knack for finding his way to the backfield in flashes during his career, and it’s looking as if Jashon Cornell finally might be ready to take a long-awaited step forward and realize his vast upside.

Still, when it comes to projecting sacks for the Buckeyes, it all seems to come down to Young. Bosa, of course, is going to put up big numbers in his final season with the program, particularly if he’s unleashed to play a greater volume of snaps. But the fact that Young was able to squeeze his way into that talented mix as a freshman spoke volumes about his ability and potential, and he has every tool needed to be a major difference-maker ― and help Ohio State top its sack total from last season.

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