Of any position group on the team, Ohio State’s defensive line might be the deepest and most talented.
The Buckeyes essentially rotated in four different “starters” at defensive end – Tyquan Lewis, Sam Hubbard, Jalyn Holmes and Nick Bosa – and were nearly as deep at defensive tackle. The mix-and-match ability allowed Ohio State to keep fresh legs on the field at all times, and the defensive line certainly played its part throughout the year.
In the second half of the season, the Buckeye line was very solid against the run, but the pass rush was lacking at times. Through the first six games of the year, Ohio State had 15 sacks – not a stellar number, but solid – and the Buckeyes recorded just 13 more sacks over the next seven contests to close the season. While the line did apply plenty of pressure at times, it struggled to get to the quarterback on a regular basis.
That said, the pressure applied often led to key plays and defensive stops, and the line’s play against the run was always solid.
Lewis was the best of the bunch with eight sacks and 10½ tackles for loss, and he was rewarded with the Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year award. Hubbard was solid as well, and he often showcased his unreal athleticism to beat runners to the sideline, though he finished the season with just 3½ sacks. Holmes and Bosa, the reserve ends, each contributed a lot as Holmes finished the year with 8½ tackles for loss and a pair of sacks while Bosa tallied seven tackles for loss and five sacks.
Perhaps the most exciting thing about Ohio State’s ends is that all four are back for next season, with Lewis, Hubbard and Holmes all potential draft picks had they opted to leave early for the NFL.
At defensive tackle, Michael Hill was quietly solid as a nose guard with 21 tackles, and he often plugged running lanes. Dre’Mont Jones was a standout performer at three technique, but he did not record a sack throughout the season, though he did finish with 52 tackles, good for sixth on the team. Robert Landers dropped off the map in the second half after a standout showing through the first six games while Davon Hamilton was a solid rotation player as well.
Like the ends, all of Ohio State’s contributing defensive tackles are returning next season.
BSB Midterm Grade: A
BSB Second-Half Grade: B
BSB Final Grade: A-
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