Sam Hubbard arrived at the Woody Hayes Athletics Center one Tuesday last fall — it might have been after the Maryland game, he’s not quite sure — and found out he would be joining the Ohio State defensive line.
For the former high school lacrosse star who had spent his first few months as a Buckeye playing either tight end or linebacker, the move wasn’t exactly a long time in the coming.
“I came in, they were like, ‘You’re going to (defensive line coach Larry) Johnson’s room from now on,’” Hubbard said. “So I just sat down, sat in the back of the room. Just had no idea what he was talking about for the first four or five weeks and just kind of observed and picked up lingo of how things work in that room.”
Less than a year later, the Cincinnati Archbishop Moeller product is a key contributor on one of the nation’s most formidable defensive units.
Hubbard got his Ohio State debut against Virginia Tech in the season opener, starting in place of All-American Joey Bosa, who missed the game through a suspension. He tallied his first career sack against the Hokies to go with four total tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss, and is now tied for the team lead with 2.5 sacks three games into his redshirt-freshman season.
While the No. 1 Buckeyes have generally underwhelmed despite a 3-0 start this year, the defensive line — most notably the pass rush — has been a bright spot with young players like Hubbard combining with veterans like Bosa and senior defensive tackle Adolphus Washington.
As a team, Ohio State has tallied 12 sacks from nine different players.
“We just have so many talented pass rushers on our defensive line and the linebackers with Darron (Lee), Raekwon (McMillan) and Josh (Perry),” Hubbard said. “Coach Johnson was saying how amazing it is that we have six ends that can all rush the passer … Just being out there with any of us, everybody’s got a chance to get to the quarterback at any time.”
Ohio State’s co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Chris Ash said the play of the defensive line is about more than sacks as well. He noted getting pressure on the quarterback has allowed the Buckeye defensive backs to put in great performances as the Buckeyes have allowed less than 100 passing yards in each of their last two games.
“When we have a quarterback running around back there scared to get hit because Joey Bosa, Sam Hubbard, Adolphus Washington are chasing them, that makes a big difference,” Ash said.
Hubbard said the success he and defensive line has had this year has boosted confidence, but that doesn’t make them complacent. He added the defense has to continue playing with its trademark swagger and continue working hard.
“That’s one thing we want to have is that ‘Silver Bullet’ swagger, that’s something we pride ourselves on,” he said.
Hubbard has embraced the mentality of being a defensive lineman and it’s shown with his play on the field this season, but he still has plenty of room to grow, Ash said. He noted that Hubbard has a “very high” ceiling as a pass rusher.
“From week one against Virginia Tech to where he was at here this last Saturday, completely different player,” Ash said. “We hope to and expect to see that continued improvement each week as we go forward throughout the season.”