One snap at a time, Nick Bosa developing into a major force at Ohio State

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Seemingly all Nick Bosa has to do is step on the field to leave his mark.

Double teams aren’t slowing the Ohio State defensive end down. A rotation that limits his workload is barely putting a dent in his production. And apparently the sophomore doesn’t even need to know what he’s supposed to do on a given snap to deliver a game-changing play like his strip-sack on Saturday against Maryland.

“Actually, I ran on the field and didn’t know which signal-caller was live,” Bosa said. “It was my first play of the game and I hadn’t heard anybody say it yet, so I didn’t even know what the play was. I looked over at Tyquan [Lewis] and it was supposed to be a certain play where I was supposed to do something, but instead I didn’t know what I was doing so I just rushed.

“I got the sack.”

He also got the fumble. That loose ball was scooped up by Jerome Baker and returned for a touchdown. And a play that could have gone in defensive coordinator Greg Schiano’s grade book as a minus instead turned into a “plus-plus.”

Bosa, of course, is also pretty dangerous when he’s running the right play. For all the hype that surrounded his potential during his recruitment and the pressure that comes with following in the footsteps of his superstar brother Joey, it’s beginning to look like Bosa might be even better than advertised for the Buckeyes.

The trick now, though, might be finding more chances for him to unleash his destructive pass-rushing skills and knack for blowing up rushing attempts behind the line of scrimmage more often. Despite logging only 100 snaps over the last four games, Bosa has racked up 7 tackles for loss — taking over the Big Ten lead and offering an eye-popping glimpse at the kind of numbers he might produce if he was on the field more often.

“I do,” Bosa said when asked if he thinks about what his statistics might look like. “I mean, I’m not going to have a 20-sack year like I obviously would want. But I’m happy for all my guys and I know that Tyquan and Sam [Hubbard] and [Jalyn Holmes] are all going to get drafted and go do big things, so I’m excited for everyone. We’ve accepted it. We realize that the pro scouts see the plays that you do play and they know if you’re the real deal or not, so it doesn’t matter if you’re playing 1,000 reps.

“I think the reps that we do get in the game, I felt like I played 100 reps because I played those 22 really hard [against Maryland]. I was hurting after that game.”

So were the Terrapins, obviously. But could he be inflicting even more damage on opposing quarterbacks? Could Bosa keep up that ridiculous statistical pace no matter how many snaps he saw or is the relatively lighter load allowing him to thrive in smaller doses?

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Nick Bosa had three tackles for loss in a blowout win over UNLV. (Land of 10 file photo)

Ohio State is clearly loaded with elite talent in position coach Larry Johnson’s meeting room, and the ability to rotate so many players and keep fresh linemen on the field at all times is a key part of that unit’s success. Maybe Bosa would remain every bit the wrecking ball with 40 snaps or 50 or even more — but they would also likely come at the expense of some for Hubbard, Holmes or Lewis or even a rising star like freshman Chase Young.

And really, there’s no reason for the Buckeyes to even push it right now.

“To have an opportunity with this many guys, playing 8 to 11 guys every game is tough to do,” Johnson said. “But they are very unselfish, so it’s easier to get them in the game, but this is very rare to do what they’re doing. Being that you have five, six, seven guys who can play different positions, it really gives you a lot of variety to do things up front.

“That is just what I’ve always wanted to be able to do with guys. This is very rare.”

So, too, is the kind of athletic ability Bosa brings to his role at defensive end. And just because the Buckeyes have seen it packaged almost identically — from the mannerisms to the last name to the No. 97 that his brother Joey wore before him — doesn’t mean it should ever be taken for granted.

Or that it would even need to be worked to the point of exhaustion.

“I mean, when you’re winning by that much, we’re not going to risk injury, right?” Schiano said. “Early in the season, we didn’t all like that we had 90-something plays in that first game. So, let’s find a happy medium.

“He’s a force. … I think our expectation level is very high for him. No. 1, he’s an incredible athlete in his own right. No. 2, he’s following his brother, who was an incredible player. I think the expectation level is high, and I think he’s fulfilling it. We just keep challenging around here, and if it’s going well, enhance it. Make it better. That’s the challenge to Nick right now: How good can he get?”

The Buckeyes and Bosa might both just be scratching the surface.

Right now, they aren’t even having to maximize his number of chances or run the right plays to reap the benefits.

The post One snap at a time, Nick Bosa developing into a major force at Ohio State appeared first on Land of 10.

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