COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio State defensive line might be the most talented position group on the team.
The Buckeyes bring back every defensive end from a loaded team, including 2016 Big Ten defensive lineman of the year Tyquan Lewis. Additionally, defensive tackle Tracy Sprinkle returns from a season-ending injury, and 5-star recruit Chase Young is on the depth chart.
It’s shaping up to be a really big season for the Buckeyes in the trenches. Here are three things we learned from speaking to the linemen, as well as head coach Urban Meyer and position coach Larry Johnson.
Nick Bosa looking better
As a freshman last season, Nick Bosa put together a solid debut campaign that included 5 sacks. That was good enough for second most on the team and was more impressive considering he spent the entire offseason rehabbing an ACL injury he sustained as a senior in high school.
This season, Bosa should be even more of a threat to opposing quarterbacks. Unlike last season, he now has a year of experience to rely on.
“I was just tentative,” he said. “It was tough getting thrown in when you’re a freshman. You’re also getting thrown in for like two-play bursts and one-play bursts, so it’s hard to get a feel for the game. There were a couple games when I got the feel and that’s when I played well.
“Now I think I’m able to play faster.”
Defensive tackle depth
The Ohio State defensive line will be without suspended starting tackle Michael Hill for an undetermined amount of time, and the depth chart for games without him is starting to take shape.
Dre’Mont Jones — who started last season — is in the top spot at the 3-technique, and Jashon Cornell is behind him. In the spot vacated by Hill, Sprinkle and Robert Landers are at the top with Davon Hamilton in the mix.
Tracy Sprinkle’s growth
In addition to his on-field impact, it sounds as though Sprinkle has been just as impressive off the field. He earned praise from teammates last year for his leadership after being injured in the first game of the season, and that kind of talk has carried over into this season.
“We’re going to announce captains tonight, and I anticipate that he’ll probably be a captain,” Meyer said. “That’s how much he means to this team. The amount of respect he has earned over the last couple years. You know, he worked so hard. You see an injury, that’s awful. It’s just great to have him back. Plus he’s a very good player.”
That’s one thing coming from coaches, but Sprinkle gets just as much admiration and respect from his peers.
“If you’re feeling down at practice, he’s the one to pick everyone up,” Jalyn Holmes said. “He’s the one who makes sure you’re accountable. He’s a great friend, and that carries onto the field.”
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