COLUMBUS, Ohio — Nick Bosa wants more snaps, and Ohio State is going to give them to him.
What it doesn’t want is to get in a situation where the star defensive end needs to take on a much heavier workload.
That’s a key difference and something of a delicate balancing act for the Buckeyes. But it’s certainly worth the effort to find the right amount of opportunities to unleash a special pass-rushing talent, yet still keeping him fresh and rotating in some talented youngsters behind him.
“I’m going to play a decent amount more this year,” Bosa said heading into spring camp. “It’s always been [defensive line coach Larry Johnson’s] plan to slowly progress me up, and I feel like it’s worked out pretty well.
“This year is going to be full-out, play every snap that means anything for my last year.”
That doesn’t mean every snap of the game, though, which again is an important distinction to make.
Certainly in tight matchups with the outcome hanging in the balance, Ohio State is going to want the reigning Big Ten defensive lineman of the year on the field doing what he does best. But part of Bosa’s success stems from the fact that he doesn’t have to carry the entire workload for the program’s talented Rushmen unit, and Johnson doesn’t want to tinker too much with a formula that clearly works.
It’s certainly a little more complicated now with Tyquan Lewis, Sam Hubbard and Jalyn Holmes all gone and preparing for the NFL draft. Bosa’s own development heading into a junior season that will likely double as his farewell tour can create a temptation to just leave him on the field, particularly with some fresh faces working into the lineup with him.
But with Chase Young poised for a breakout season, Jonathon Cooper aiming for an expanded role and now Jashon Cornell apparently ready to finally cash in on his potential after moving back to defensive end, the Buckeyes expect to primarily operate the same sort of four-man system. This time, though, there might be some accommodations for Bosa to do a bit more heavy lifting.
“We’re going to try to stay with four guys,” Johnson said. “We don’t want to add more plays than we need to have. We don’t want to have 90 plays on Nick all of a sudden. He’ll play 60 or 65 probably in a great game, but we’re not going to give him 90 or 95 plays. We want to still play fresh, and that’s why we’re successful.
“You look at last year, Nick played 42 plays per game and Tyquan played 41. That’s a pretty good, even share to make sure guys are fresh. I think that’s the reason why we’re so successful up front, because those guys are fresh up front.”
Sending those defensive ends in waves at opposing blockers who don’t have the same luxury of subbing in and out certainly favors the Buckeyes, and more often than not the defensive linemen were able to dominate late in games and impose their will.
Bosa was obviously a big part of that, finishing with 8.5 sacks and 16 tackles for loss to lead the Buckeyes in both categories. And if those numbers seem a little low, just imagine what they might look like if he gets 20 more snaps per game — assuming Ohio State is able to continue to pick and choose the right spots to keep his energy high.
“I mean, it’s still spring,” Bosa said. “I’m just going to take all the reps I need, do extra drills, maybe take off an inside drill and do drills with Coach J on the side.
“I’m just going to take the wear and tear off my body now, but still get the cardio in that I need.”
By the time the season rolls around, that should have Bosa in position to get exactly what he wants.