COLUMBUS, Ohio — For the 2018 Ohio State defensive line, less might be more.
The 2017 group was one of the most talented defensive lines in program history. Defensive ends Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis and Jalyn Holmes will be taken in the upcoming NFL draft, and all will likely be off the board after three rounds. Fellow Ohio State defensive ends Nick Bosa and Chase Young look like future top-10 overall picks, and defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones could be a first-rounder. Lewis and Bosa won the past two Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year awards.
Losing three high-value ends as well as a pair of fifth-year defensive tackles, Michael Hill and Tracy Sprinkle, seems like a big blow. And yet it seems possible — perhaps even likely — the 2018 Ohio State defensive line will be an improvement.
“I think it could be a step up from last year,” Bosa said. “They set the bar for us, and we’re going to enhance it. There’s just so much talent on this D-line right now. Even though we’re young, it’s some of the best talent I’ve ever seen. It’s going to be really good once we get the chemistry together.”
The difference between 2017 and 2018 could be more reps for the top-end talent that remains. Nick Bosa is an elite pass rusher, likely destined to be a top-5 pick like his brother, Joey, was. But he was splitting reps evenly with the three upperclassmen. Chase Young looks to be a similar talent, racking up 3 1/2 sacks in 2017 despite being mostly limited to late snaps in blowouts because of the older players in front of him.
Those players, along with talented junior Jonathon Cooper, should see their snap counts increase in a way that’s more efficient for the team. They’ll still be getting rest in blowouts, but they won’t be on the sidelines as much when it matters.
“This year is going to be full out, play every snap that means anything,” Bosa said.
And while it’s easy to see why players like Bosa obviously have faith in themselves, Holmes also told Land of 10 at the Senior Bowl that he could see the 2018 Ohio State defensive line outplaying the 2017 unit.
“They can take what we did and do even more,” Holmes said. “You’ve got a great coach and three great young talents at defensive end plus Dre’Mont at defensive tackle. They can take what we did and take it to the next level.”