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Young Ohio State Defensive Ends Impressing Veteran Buckeye Offensive Tackles
By Tony Gerdeman
There are a number of talented options at defensive end according to those who have been blocking them.
Photo by Jim Davidson

COLUMBUS — In terms of a position evaluation, Joey Bosa is what would be considered a good start.

Bosa, of course, is the Buckeyes' All-American defensive end. He of the 55 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, 13.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, and one touchdown last season. Even though Ohio State is looking for a starter to place opposite him, he alone could average out to two productive defensive ends.

But obviously that's not how things work.

With the graduation of seniors Steve Miller and Rashad Frazier, the battle for the vacated spot on the other side of Bosa is in full swing right now, and there are no less than five Buckeyes vying for it.

Redshirt sophomore Tyquan Lewis might be the favorite at the moment. After all, he is the oldest of the group and has received the most playing time. Then there is true sophomore Jalyn Holmes, who was too good to redshirt as a freshman last season, though he only played in nine games last year.

Redshirt freshman Sam Hubbard has already been talked about quite a bit, and all of that talk seems to be happening for good reason. Fellow redshirt freshman Darius Slade has flown under the radar, but defensive line coach Larry Johnson was the guy who went out and got Slade, so don't overlook the possibilities here either. There is also true freshman Jashon Cornell, a high school All-American with a vast array of accolades.

Being just a freshman, Cornell is certainly a long shot to win the job, but he might be the only one.

Two guys who have to go against these defensive ends every day in practice are senior offensive tackles Taylor Decker and Chase Farris, so their opinions may carry a bit more weight than most.

"They're looking really promising," Farris said after practice Thursday. "They're really good. They're really talented guys. They're all fast, and they're getting their strength up, so they're gonna be good."

While Farris didn't want to single any particular player out, Decker had no problem naming names.

"I'm actually really impressed right now with Tyquan Lewis," he said. "He's been in the program a few years, but he's really starting to come on. He's a really strong kid and really explosive, so I'm impressed with him."

Lewis played in 13 games for the Buckeyes last year, notching 2.5 tackles for loss and a half a sack. He got some very valuable playing time a season ago, including in some very key moments late in the season. The confidence in Lewis is high, but the job is far from won.

"The other guy that I go against a lot is Jalyn Holmes," Decker said. "He's got a ton of athletic ability. I think for him, it's just a matter of consistency and learning how to practice hard."

Despite fewer snaps, Holmes actually finished with two more tackles (11) than Lewis (9) last season. Holmes is measuring in now at 6-foot-5 and 265 pounds, which is about exactly what you want your defensive ends to look like. His athleticism is what most people point to when talking about him, and for good reason.

Then there's Hubbard.

"Sam Hubbard, I went against him all last year on scout team and he was — and not to take anything away from a lot of the D-ends that I played — but he was better than a lot of them," Decker said diplomatically. "That kid's got all kinds of ability. He's getting stronger. He's a big kid. He's quick. He's got a lot of ability."

And that was just after a couple of months at the position for Hubbard.

Is there anybody in this group that has been giving Farris trouble?

"I'm not gonna say they don't give me any trouble," he said. "Don't get me wrong, if you come off bad on a pass set, they will get you. They keep you on your toes, for sure. You can't sleep on any of them. At any given moment any one of them can make a play. They're all great."

Overall, this is a very young group, featuring two sophomores and three freshmen. They will need to replace a pair of seniors who played well, played smart, and produced at very opportune times.

Sometimes those opportune times have a way of finding the veterans more so than the younger players, but Decker doesn't expect any kind of drop off.

"No," Decker said when asked if he had any worries about the position. "I think we have a ton of depth across the d-line. It seems like they're three-deep at every spot, which makes it challenging for us but it's good work. It's good that we'll hopefully be able to rotate guys through there."

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