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Ohio State Football: Despite Losses, High Expectations For Buckeyes D-Line

Despite losing Joey Bosa, Ohio State seems optimistic about the options along the 2016 defensive line.

For the second year in a row a Bosa was a big topic of conversation among the Ohio State contingent at Big Ten Media Days.

In 2015 that was All-American Joey Bosa who had big expectations entering what proved to be his final year at Ohio State. This time around it was his younger brother Nick who garnered the attention from Urban Meyer and the three captains in attendance in Chicago.

“That kid’s a freak in the weight room,” center Pat Elflein said. “He’s probably one of the strongest guys on the team already and I think he can definitely contribute.”

Despite injuring his ACL during his senior year of high school, Meyer said that Bosa should be ready to participate in fall camp, though his reps will be limited in order to ensure he is healthy when the season begins.

The arrival of Bosa, a five-star defensive end and the No. 5 overall player in the 2016 class, is one of the reasons that the Buckeyes can have some confidence in their defensive line for the upcoming season despite losing three starters up front.

In addition to losing the older Bosa, the Buckeyes will be without Adolphus Washington and Tommy Schutt. Ohio State, however, is not without experience.

Back along the front four is 2015 sack leader Tyquan Lewis and Sam Hubbard, the first defensive end off the bench for the Buckeyes last year. Elflein said that both of those players join middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan as leaders of a young defense that is looking to replace eight starters from the defending Fiesta Bowl Champions.

With Lewis as one of the returning starters, Hubbard being one of the more experienced players returning on defense, and the presence of talented players like Jayln Holmes and incoming freshmen Bosa and Jonathan Cooper, the Buckeyes seem comfortable with their defensive ends.

They won’t be able to shine, however, if the middle of the line isn’t stable.

“You’ve got to have a 3-technique and a nose,” McMillan said. “Tracy Sprinkle and Mike Hill – nobody really talks about them, but I think those two guys are underexposed.”

As the likely starters this upcoming season, both are about to get more exposure. Hill, who both Elflein and McMillan called one of the funniest players on the team, came on late in 2015, starting in the Fiesta Bowl and playing well. Sprinkle, too, received praise throughout spring practice for the way he has overcome off-field issues to become a counted on member of the defense.

Pushing for playing time in the middle will be Davon Hamilton.  As the starting center Elflein expects to get plenty of looks at the athletic Hamilton rushing the passer from the inside during fall camp.

“I think Davon Hamilton had a good spring ball and summer workouts, he’s a freak,” Elflein said. “Freak in the weight room, freak athlete.

“Mike Hill, Dre’Mont (Jones), Nick Bosa. I think those guys have had a good summer and transitioned well.”

The Buckeyes at Big Ten Media Day seemed optimistic that positive springs from a number of players as well as the immense potential of Nick Bosa will carry over into the fall. If it does, Ohio State may not lose much of a step on the defensive line.

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