No Joey Bosa, no problem.
The Buckeyes were without a player who is arguably the best defensive player in the country when they defeated Virginia Tech 42-24 on Monday. While Bosa surely would have had an impact, the Ohio State defensive line did just fine without him.
The Silver Bullets recorded four sacks and eight tackles-for-loss in the win over the Hokies, better than the Buckeyes per game averages of three sacks and 7.3 TFL in 2014. The defensive line was big factor in both categories, registering three sacks and 5 TFL as a unit.
While the entire unit played well, the starting defensive ends led the way. Tyquan Lewis had 2 TFL, including 1.5 sacks, while redshirt freshman Sam Hubbard had one sack as part of a 1.5 TFL in his first start at defensive end.
Not his first collegiate start on the defensive line, his first start ever at that position.
“It was definitely tough,” Hubbard said of filling in for Bosa. “Never stepping on the field as a defensive end in my life, this is a pretty big stage and I was a little nervous, but a good nervous because I have been trained. (Defensive Line Coach Larry) Johnson and everybody got me ready.”
While it has been said numerous times, it can’t be reiterated enough that Hubbard was a high school safety just two years ago. He was just 220 pounds when he was recruited and now roams the defensive line at 265 pounds, just 10 pounds lighter than Bosa.
“I forgot how good playing the game actually feels after taking the year off last year,” he said. “It means a lot to me and I was just so excited to get out there and glad that I was able to do my job and get the win.”
Hubbard made his presence known early, registering his first career sack on the Hokies second drive of the game. Fellow end Tyquan Lewis got in on the action even earlier, combining with cornerback Gareon Conley to sack Michael Brewer on the game’s third play from scrimmage to force a punt.
The entire front four of the stop unit was able to have an impact on the game because they were able to stay fresh. Johnson was liberal with his rotations and it showed on the stat sheet as eight different lineman recorded at least one tackle, topping the six that made at least one stop against the Hokies in 2014.
“Now we know we have some guys that we can really rotate in there who can play great minutes for us," linebacker Joshua Perry said. “We’ve got some guys that we can rotate in, and I think we’re going to need that through the course of the year.”
With Bosa’s return Hubbard will shift to a reserve role, though his usage will surely remain high. The damage that the defensive line will be able to do with Bosa demanding double teams is frightening. How much better the unit can get as young players like Jalyn Holmes and Lewis mature and Hubbard continues to learn a position he’s hardly familiar with will keep offensive coordinators up at night.
Against Virignia Tech the Buckeyes defensive line had no problem without Bosa. Reinsert him into that unit going forward and it will be nothing but problems for opposing offensive lines.