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Joey Bosa is the Best Player the Irish Have Seen on Defense This Year
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS — Buckeye fans have had the privilege of watching defensive end Joey Bosa for the last three seasons, and they'll be watching him one last time in the Scarlet and Gray in the Fiesta Bowl.

Bosa burst onto the scene as a freshman while sophomore Adolphus Washington was injured. His stellar play made it clear to the Buckeye coaches that it was time for for Washington to move inside to defensive tackle. It was clear to Washington as well, who knew that nobody would be taking Bosa's minutes any time soon. 

As a freshman he finished with 7.5 sacks, which was second on the team. As a sophomore, he upped that number to 13.5 sacks and 21.0 tackles for loss. This season, however, his sacks dipped to 5.0 and his tackles for loss 16.0.

But just because the statistics weren't there doesn't mean the effort was missing.

"Watching the film for the last month, it’s shocking to me that his stats are down," offensive coordinator Mike Sanford said. "I didn’t even know that actually until you said that. The effort that he plays with, the amount of second and third effort plays that he makes is off the charts. He’s the best player we’ve seen on defense this year. There’s no doubting that."

Bosa, being talked about as the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft in the spring, was named a First-Team All-American for the second season in a row. Those who watched him this year may not have seen him sacking the quarterback as much, but they still saw him hitting the quarterback like he had done the previous two seasons.

"It doesn’t seem like sacks are down because the amount of hits he’s gotten on quarterback and the violence in which those hits have been delivered have really changed the complexion of the games," Sanford said.

"Even look at the Michigan game. That game completely changed when he put Rudock on his shoulder. That was as good as an effort play, as good of a pass-rushing highlight reel play as I’ve seen. I think he affects the game by the way he pressures the quarterback as well as anybody in the country."

Bosa affects a game well before the first whistle because the opposing coaches have to figure out how they are going to attack him and how they are going to account for him.

There isn't one particular thing that an offense can do, they just have to keep searching for something that works. And if they find it, they can't fall in love with it because Bosa will probably figure out how to get around it.

"Coach Kelly uses the phrase defensively about offensive players, 'a game wrecker,' he’s a game wrecker on the defensive side of the ball," said associate head coach and receivers coach Mike Denbrock.

"He’s an incredible talent in both defending the run and rushing the passer. Great with his hands. Tremendous leverage. Plays with a motor that just doesn’t shut off. So you start I think any plan that you put together with trying to find ways to affect him and affect his game in some ways."

An opposing coach can be impressed with a player when they first watch him on film, but then they really begin to respect him when they are trying to come up with a game plan for defending him.

Bosa is a complete defensive lineman, and so it will take a complete offensive attack to neutralize him as best as can be hoped for. There are a lot of ideas being talked about, and at some point or another during the game, you can expect to see each of those ideas employed.

 "Whether that’s with what you’re doing with your pass protections or that’s what you’re doing with your run game," Denbrock said. "Whether you’re going to read him, whether you’re going to block him every play, whether you’re going to put a tight end in his face, whether you’re going to put a tackle in his face.

"You’ve got to really dig in and say, ‘Okay, this guy can alter the game if we don’t do something on our end to help our guys be successful.’ That’s part of it. He’s taken a lot of our attention there’s no doubt as we’ve prepared for this game."

Rest assured, the Irish will bring out every trick in the book to keep Bosa from impacting this game. Given the amount of focus being placed in his direction, however, the impact may have already been made.

Player profiles relevant to story:
97 - Bosa, Joey
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