We are now on day nine of our 10-part series breaking down the best Ohio State players to play their position in the first five years under Buckeye head coach Urban Meyer. A number of talented defensive linemen have taken the field wearing scarlet and gray since Meyer’s arrival, so James Grega, Tim Moody and I ranked our top defensive linemen of the Meyer era at Ohio State.
T-No. 9 – Nick Bosa, Noah Spence
Though he was a true freshman in 2016, Nick Bosa made his presence known. While playing in all 13 games, Bosa recorded 29 tackles, seven being tackles for loss. Five of those TFL were sacks, good for second on the team. The defensive end also earned freshman All-American and OSU Scholar-Athlete status.
Tying Bosa for the ninth spot on this list is Noah Spence. Prior to being suspended and eventually declared ineligible for the 2014 season after failing two drug tests, Spence broke onto the scene in 2013 as a sophomore. The Harrisburg, Pa., native started all 13 games that year and notched 14½ TFL and a team-high eight sacks. Spence, a defensive end, collected 52 total tackles in 2013 while forcing a fumble and recovering one. He ended his OSU career with 64 tackles, 15½ TFL and nine sacks before transferring to Eastern Kentucky in January of 2015.
No. 8 – Jalyn Holmes
While he is technically not a starter, Jalyn Holmes is viewed as a first-stringer within the program. Holmes has played in 37 out of a possible 41 games during his first three years at Ohio State, which includes playing in all of the games the past two seasons. For the defensive end’s career thus far, he has 55 tackles, 11 TFL, three sacks, two forced fumbles and a pair of fumble recoveries.
No. 7 – Michael Bennett
As a senior in the national championship season of 2014, Michael Bennett logged at least one TFL in nine of the 15 games, including one in six consecutive contests vs. Michigan State, Minnesota, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Alabama. The defensive tackle’s 14 TFL and seven sacks that year were both good for third on the squad. As a junior in 2013, Bennett amassed career highs in tackles (42), TFL (11½) and sacks (7½) as he garnered second-team all-Big Ten honors by both the coaches and media. In 49 games as a Buckeye, the Centerville, Ohio, product made 111 tackles, 31½ TFL, 18 sacks and forced seven fumbles.
T-No. 5 – Sam Hubbard, Adolphus Washington
Sam Hubbard, who will be a fourth-year junior in the fall, has played in 26 games and has 14 starts at defensive end. A knack for getting into the opponent’s backfield, Hubbard has 16 career TFL and 10 sacks. Additionally, the Cincinnati native has registered 74 career tackles, an interception, three pass break-ups, two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble. A three-time OSU Scholar-Athlete, Hubbard has also gained Academic All-Big Ten recognition each of the last two years and was named a first-team Academic All-American in 2016.
Adolphus Washington, meanwhile, finished his Buckeye career with 49 games played. In four years with the Scarlet and Gray, Washington totaled 142 tackles, 25 TFL, 13½ sacks, three forced fumbles and one recovery. He had a career high for tackles (49) in 2015 as a senior while notching career bests for TFL (10½) and sacks (4½) as a junior in 2014.
No. 4 – Johnathan Hankins
Leaving the program a year early to pursue an NFL career, Johnathan Hankins played just one season under Meyer – 2012, when the team went 12-0. He closed his Ohio State career with 138 tackles, 16½ TFL and five sacks. The defensive tackle had a career-best 67 stops, 11 TFL and three sacks as a sophomore in 2011. Hankins played in all 38 games over his three years in Columbus and was named the squad's Jack Stephenson Award winner as the team's outstanding defensive lineman in both 2011 and 2012.
No. 3 – Tyquan Lewis
Tyquan Lewis, the reigning Big Ten Conference defensive lineman of the year, is a three-year starting defensive end. He has been Ohio State’s leader in quarterback sacks in each of the past two years, logging eight each campaign. A 2016 first-team all-Big Ten honoree, Lewis enters his senior campaign with 92 career tackles, 27 TFL and 16½ sacks. The Tarboro, N.C., native also has three PBUs and three forced fumbles.
No. 2 – John Simon
Like Hankins, Simon only played one season with Meyer at then helm in 2012. That year, Simon recorded 14½ TFL and a career-high nine sacks. His efforts as a senior led to him being given the Big Ten Conference's Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year Award while also being named the Big Ten's 2012 Smith-Brown Defensive Lineman of the Year. As a junior in 2011, the Youngstown (Ohio) Cardinal Mooney product had career bests for tackles (53) and TFL (16). In 50 games as a Buckeye, Simon collected 154 stops, 43 TFL and 20½ sacks.
No. 1 – Joey Bosa
A two-time Big Ten defensive lineman of the year, Joey Bosa, the older brother of Nick Bosa, sits atop this impressive list. The older Bosa ranks third at Ohio State all-time in career sacks (26) and fourth all-time in career TFL (50½). Known for his disruptiveness, Bosa finished his junior season of 2015 with 47 tackles, 16 TFL, five sacks, four PBUs, 14 quarterback pressures, an interception and a forced fumble. The two-time consensus All-American had a whopping 13½ sacks during Ohio State’s run to the national title in 2014. Arguably his most memorable sack that year sealed a 31-24 double-overtime win at Penn State. Forgoing his senior season, Bosa left Columbus with 150 career tackles, 24 quarterback hurries, five forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries taken back for touchdowns, the latter coming in OSU’s 59-0 shellacking of Wisconsin in the 2014 Big Ten championship game.
Honorable Mention: Steve Miller
James Grega: Joey Bosa is arguably the best defensive end in school history, so he is the unquestioned No. 1 here. John Simon is one of the best leaders Meyer said he has ever coached, so he goes No. 2. While he didn't make the list, I put Steve Miller at No. 10 on my ballot because of his impact during the '14 season, particularly his INT against Alabama.
Ryan McGlade: I immediately put Joey Bosa No. 1 on my personal rankings. The way he was able to get into the opposing backfield and be disruptive has been unparalleled. You can’t discredit what John Simon did either. He was the heart and soul of that 2012 team, leading it to an undefeated season. The list as a whole is incredibly impressive in my opinion. And with Nick Bosa, Jalyn Holmes, Sam Hubbard and Tyquan Lewis all having at least one year of eligibility remaining, this list will get even stronger.
Tim Moody: Led by Big Bosa, this is probably the best position group at Ohio State under Urban Meyer, and it could just keep getting better in the next few years.