Urban Meyer’s call might have been answered this spring after the Ohio State coach spent most of the 2014 season preaching the need for depth at defensive line.
Despite losing starters Michael Bennett and Steve Miller to graduation, OSU defensive line coach Larry Johnson said redshirt-sophomore Tyquan Lewis, sophomore Jalyn Holmes and redshirt-freshman Sam Hubbard have stood out through the first 10 practices this spring.
“Tyquan is having a great spring, really great spring,” Johnson said Thursday. “Jalyn is starting to be the player we think he can be. Sam’s kinda out of nowhere, but really got a chance to be really dynamic also.”
Lewis and Holmes combined for a total of 20 tackles last season, with Hubbard sitting out as a redshirt. Holmes totaled 11 tackles, one for loss, and Lewis added nine tackles with half a sack.
Of the three, Johnson said Lewis has made the biggest strides since OSU’s victory in the College Football Playoff National Championship in January.
“It’s clicked in his mind, the kind of player he has to be,” Johnson said. “He’s playing much faster than he played last year. And I think he understands the defensive concept much more than he did last year. But he’s had a really outstanding spring.”
While Lewis played in 13 of the Buckeyes’ 15 games last season, he never cracked the regular rotation. Now with the goal of defending its national title, OSU is looking to replace the production of Bennett and Miller, who combined for 75 total tackles and eight sacks as seniors.
The Buckeyes’ most productive defensive lineman, junior Joey Bosa, is set to return after totaling 55 tackles, 21 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks on his way to being named a unanimous All-American. Bosa acknowledged that there wasn’t much depth on the line last year, but added the confidence he has in his backups has changed this spring.
“Last year, we didn’t feel too comfortable with putting some backups in,” Bosa said Thursday. “But this year is a completely different feeling, we have a bunch of guys ready to go.”
Like his coach, Bosa said Lewis has been the standout player of the bunch. He said Lewis has earned the starting spot opposite himself at defensive end, and added that he’s done “an unbelievable job” in practice.
“He’s out there killing it, going hard every day,” Bosa said. “We’re all so happily surprised to see him do that, and I’m excited to have another end doing that.”
Bosa said Lewis has speed and physicality, calling him a “freak” on the field.
But while one player has stood out, Bosa added that Holmes and Hubbard have come out strong as well.
“Jalyn Holmes and Sam Hubbard, my little protégés,” Bosa said. “They’re doing great, too. They’re out there working, Sam’s gotten so unbelievably better.”
Overall, Johnson said he likes where OSU’s defensive line is going as spring practice winds down.
The Buckeyes are scheduled to take the field for their annual Spring Game on April 18 before taking on Virginia Tech on Sept. 7 in Blacksburg, Va., to open the regular season.