- David Jablonski Staff Writer
Larry Johnson took a lap around the field with each of the Ohio State Buckeyes defensive linemen after arriving at Lucas Oil Stadium before the Big Ten Championship on Dec. 2. The group did the same thing at the Fiesta Bowl last season. It’s a tradition of sorts.
The players walk with their position coach. Everyone is quiet and focused. Most of the players are listening to music on headphones. The cohesion of the group is on display.
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That’s how it is every day with Ohio State’s defensive line and Johnson. He leads one of the most talented position groups in the country, and he may be Ohio State’s most valuable assistant coach. That’s one reason he issued a statement last week when rumors arose that he might retire.
“Apparently there is misinformation about my future,” Johnson write on Twitter. “I want to make a bold statement that I am not going anywhere and I’m proud to be Buckeye.”
This is Johnson’s fourth season on Urban Meyer’s staff. He has gotten the most out a deep group that could send as many as four players to the NFL in 2018.
Johnson’s players didn’t know how the rumors about him leaving started.
“I’m glad it’s not true for at least one more year,” sophomore defensive end Nick Bosa said. “It’s just more than football. Everybody always says that, but with him it’s really true. He loves you. He’s just a father figure to all of us. A lot of us are away from home, and we know we can go to him for absolutely anything — whether it’s somehow we got in trouble or school’s tough or whatever it is — and he’ll be there. He just loves us for who we are.”
Bosa is the latest player to reap the benefits of playing under Johnson. He was named the Big Ten’s Defensive Linemen of the Year as a sophomore. His brother Nick Bosa played his final two seasons for Johnson and was a unanimous All-American both years.
Senior defensive end Jalyn Holmes called Johnson one of the best defensive line coaches ever.
“It’s going to be hard for me leaving (Ohio State),” Holmes said. “Now I’ve got to find someone similar to him to train me. He tries to enhance every little thing you do as far as your hands and feet. He can criticize you so crazy. You think you had a good practice, but he can try to make you better. He’s also a great motivator as well. He’s just an all-around great coach.”
Notes: Meyer and a group of Ohio State players spent Monday visiting patients at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus. They signed autographs, posed for photos and met children and their families. J.K. Dobbins, Dwayne Haskins, Tuf Borland, Chase Young, Jeffrey Okudah, Robert Landers, Bosa and Demario McCall joined Meyer. … The Buckeyes leave Saturday for the Cotton Bowl in Texas. They will hold their first practice at 1:15 p.m. Saturday at Euless Trinity High School. Their first practice at AT&T Stadium will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday.