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Ohio State could turn to a linebacker to replace Joey Bosa

The Buckeyes are considering using Joshua Perry to spell Joey Bosa while the All-American is suspended. Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- There might be no taller order than trying to replace Joey Bosa on Ohio State’s defensive line, and it appears filling it might require dipping into a completely different position.

With the pass-rushing phenom and potential No. 1 draft pick next year on the shelf for the season opener due to suspension and essentially no proven options on hand to slide into his spot, the Buckeyes are toying with the idea of plugging linebacker Joshua Perry into the Bosa-sized hole they have up front.

And if it’s playing experience Ohio State wants, there’s nobody on the roster with more than the senior preparing for his third season as a starter.

“Whatever they want me to do, I’ll be able to do,” Perry said. “You know, we haven’t solved anything or talked about it too much, but I’m open to it all.

“I did a lot of work on pass rush [this summer] and developed some of those skills. I just need to have that in my repertoire, but also just in case they want to do some different things, whether it’s for this game or whether it’s moving forward. If we get in some different scenarios, we’ll be able to do that.”

With the first week of training camp not even complete yet, the Buckeyes obviously haven’t settled on any game plan for handling the absence of their star defensive end ahead of a difficult road test at Virginia Tech.

Ohio State has no shortage of talented options already on hand at his position after cleaning up on the recruiting trail over the last couple years, and it has expressed nothing but confidence in young guys such as Tyquan Lewis, Sam Hubbard or Darius Slade to both pick up the slack in the short term without Bosa and provide depth as the season progresses.

But Perry has emerged as another intriguing candidate for a handful of reasons, starting with his comfort on the field after countless snaps as one of Ohio State’s most consistent contributors on defense. Certainly that experience has come at a completely different position, but at 6-foot-4 and 254 pounds, he has the size needed to play on the edge. He has enough speed to chase down plays, as his team-high 124 tackles a year ago helped prove. He has also already been a nuisance in the backfield for opponents after making 8.5 tackles for a loss with three sacks as a junior, and while Perry might not have much experience matching up one-on-one with tackles, he is a more than willing learner who has no problem taking coaching.

“I think we want to find a way to get our best 11 guys on the field, and that’s kind of the evaluation through camp is to find a way to get those best 11 and who those best 11 are,” defensive coordinator Luke Fickell said. “The great thing is, if we have to kind of go that route, it could be something for Joshua in the long run, might be somewhere he could play in the future. I think that’s kind of one of those ways you sell it to him. You’re obviously always making sure it’s about the team, but also you kind of point out the things that can be really beneficial to them.

“He’s one of those guys, he puts the team and the unit above himself and he’ll do whatever we need him to do. He has great versatility, so that could be one of our options.”

Of course, borrowing a linebacker to address a need in the trenches would leave another vacancy to address, and it would also be one without an experienced guy around to fill it.

Just like up front, though, the Buckeyes have a touted youngster already generating a buzz in camp, with Perry calling sophomore Dante Booker a “freak of nature” who “needs to be on the field.”

And if Booker is truly ready for action and Ohio State does wind up needing a loaner linebacker to replace Bosa, it appears yet another ready-made solution for perhaps its only significant concern this month has already presented itself.

“Would Josh be able to pass rush? Absolutely, look at him,” linebacker Darron Lee said. “I mean, he’s like 6-4, 250, long arms -- we call him Squid for a reason. He’ll be fine.

“If our coaches develop some type of game plan for that, absolutely he can do it.”

There is still plenty of time to tinker before deciding on a final plan. But one thing Ohio State doesn’t seem to be short on is options to step in for Bosa -- particularly since it isn’t limiting the search just to defensive ends.