MOBILE, Ala. — Neither Tyquan Lewis nor Jalyn Holmes is a perfect NFL prospect, which is how both Ohio State defensive ends came to be playing in the Senior Bowl instead of leaving early. Both are better than the credit they’ve been given, though, and they showed it on Saturday.
Ohio State has had arguably the nation’s best defensive line over the last few years, but that doesn’t mean its members have escaped criticism in NFL draft circles. Holmes has been knocked for his production, which included just 5 sacks in four years, but features eye-catching measurables and seemingly limitless potential. Lewis, on the other hand, racked up 23 sacks over his last three seasons, but his athleticism doesn’t seem to impress draft analysts.
Each player has a fair argument against those critiques. Holmes spent his entire college career playing behind future first-round picks and often played out of position in the star-making Rushmen package, where he’d line up at defensive tackle or outside linebacker. Each of those factors made it harder for him to accumulate those all-important sacks, but it was more a reflection of circumstances than ability. Lewis may not test off the charts, but he’s consistently been the most productive sack artist on one of the nation’s best defensive lines in each of the last three seasons.
Those are just arguments, though. On Saturday, they got to put the latest batch of evidence on film. Perhaps NFL scouts will take notes, because the pair of Ohio State players lived in the backfield for much of the game. They combined for 8 tackles, with Holmes producing 2 sacks and Lewis 1. (Lewis was initially credited with another sack and forced fumble before credit was switched to Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, but Lewis certainly played a part.)
“We just put the Ohio State brand on film,” Lewis said. “We were showing what Coach [Larry] Johnson helped us be and how we developed at Ohio State.”
Johnson has built the Ohio State defensive line into a juggernaut. Joey Bosa went No. 3 overall in the 2016 NFL Draft, and Sam Hubbard is a possible first-round pick this year after spending most of his first year on campus at linebacker and tight end. Nick Bosa is already being talked about as a virtual lock to be a top-5 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Similar whispers are already starting for Chase Young, who had a brilliant freshman campaign.
But the true brilliance of the Ohio State defensive line is its depth. Lewis and Holmes are equally viable NFL products who put together huge games against some of the best of their peers. One of the Senior Bowl rules quirks prevents sending more than four pass rushers, so that dominance came by straight-up beating opposing blockers as opposed to running free on a blitz.
“We sold the product that we always do,” Holmes said. “I think me and Tyquan represent Ohio State well. He had to, I had to and that’s what we do.”