Whether it’s the quarterback battle that everyone is watching or the push to earn a start at defensive end, everyone seems buddy-buddy about the whole thing.
The former position battle opened up when it was announced that Joey Bosa would be suspended for the first game of the season. Tyquan Lewis had already locked up the starting end spot opposite Bosa, but the race to fill the All-Americans shoes in the opener against Virginia Tech is in full swing with redshirt freshman Sam Hubbard and sophomore Jalyn Holmes sprinting to Blacksburg.
If you ask the players involved, however, it’s no competition.
"It's a blessing,” Holmes said at Ohio State media day Sunday. “I have to thank God for the opportunity, but it's not really a competition. Sam and I, I have his back regardless. It doesn't really matter what happens, I just want to know that I gave it my all and I know he'll give it his all. We're just going to go with the flow."
Holmes and Hubbard present a pair of enticing options as a temporary replacement for Bosa, and given how much Urban Meyer and defensive line coach Larry Johnson like to have a rotation along the defensive front four, both will certainly play in Blacksburg.
Both players came to Ohio State as part of the 2014 class. Holmes was able to get on the field in spot duty last season while Hubbard redshirted and worked to find a position group to call home, spending time with the linebackers and tight ends before landing with the defensive line. Now both seem prepared to play.
“Me and Jayln are great friends, we’re close,” Hubbard said. “We talk every day and hang out, but every day we try to get better. We’re really competing with ourselves though, trying to do our thing and get better each day.”
Regardless of who starts, the two ends – both listed at 6-5, 265 pounds – will see time against the Hokies before serving as the primary backups for Bosa and Lewis. While they both have areas the need to work on – Holmes cited his run fits as a weakness while Hubbard said his hand placement still needs work – the pair are just fine with being used interchangeably.
“He's my brother,” Holmes said of Hubbard. “We're twin brothers. You can't tell?"
Which player is out there during the Buckeyes first defensive series of the season likely won’t matter as Holmes and Hubbard will attempt to fill Bosa’s temporarily vacated spot by committee. No matter how promising the two young defensive linemen are or how willing they are to help one another improve, that’s no easy task.
Bosa amassed 21 tackles-for-loss last season including 13.5 sacks. To his credit he has been helping Holmes and Hubbard with the sibling rivalry over his spot on the line.
“He’s just been feeding me knowledge,” Hubbard said. “He’s played so many snaps the last two years that he has been focusing on helping me and Jayln get better and prepare for this game. It doesn’t really feel any different, he’s still working as hard as ever. He’s just been great with the whole process.”