COLUMBUS, Ohio -- For all the talent it has stockpiled recently, even Ohio State doesn’t have spare defensive tackles with NFL first round draft pick skills laying around.
The Buckeyes do have some options to replace one, but they may lean on a likely No. 1 overall pick at a different position.
If there was a soft spot on one of the nation’s best defenses this season, it was in the middle of a line that was otherwise oozing with professional potential and known for its ability to rush the passer. Even with Adolphus Washington on hand, there were times Ohio State seemed susceptible against the run between the tackles. And now that the senior won’t be around thanks to his suspension for a solicitation arrest, that could be a big problem against a power rushing attack like Notre Dame’s in the BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl.
How the Buckeyes will address his absence and try to slow down the Irish remained unclear in the immediate fallout. But when Ohio State went back to work late last week, it certainly wasn’t short on options with Tommy Schutt, Joel Hale and Michael Hill ready to take on larger roles. But the most intriguing replacement candidate of all might be the big guy on the edge, and sliding Joey Bosa inside for what's probably his last game with the Buckeyes might wind up being the best option.
“When Joey moves to the three-technique, then you’ve got two more ends which gives us a lot of speed and a lot of versatile guys rushing the quarterback,” defensive end Sam Hubbard said earlier this season. “Joey Bosa lined up against you? Inside, that’s just not what guards and centers are expecting to see.”
The Irish were likely going to see Bosa there at times anyway, thanks to the new “Rushmen” package Ohio State installed this season in an effort to get its four best pass rushers on the field at the same time. That group also included Washington, so it will require some adjustments as the Buckeyes gear up for Notre Dame and an offense that averaged more than 214 yards per game on the ground.
Ohio State only allowed more yardage than that once this season, and despite being just No. 7 in the Big Ten in rushing defense, it held opponents to nearly 90 fewer yards than the Irish typically produced this year.
That, of course, was all done with Washington stuffing the middle with 49 tackles, including seven tackles for loss. But if there’s somebody who can match his versatility, athleticism and size, it's Bosa, who obviously has more than enough strength to get the job done at 6-foot-6 and 275 pounds.
Maybe it sounds crazy to move the likely top pick in the upcoming NFL draft. But it's probably the right thing with Tyquan Lewis and Hubbard having already proven themselves by combining for 12.5 sacks and 20 tackles for loss this season. And Bosa has made it clear on numerous occasions he’ll do whatever the Buckeyes need to get a win, even if it comes at the expense of his own numbers.
“Stats don’t really matter as long as we’re out there playing well,” Bosa said early on. “I’m just going out there every week and trying to do my job as best as I possibly can to free up other guys and just play well as a defense.”
If nothing else, shifting Bosa around to replace Washington ensures that NFL scouts will still be closely watching an Ohio State defensive tackle in the postseason.