One Big Ten coach likens him to Ryan Kerrigan, the former Purdue All-American and first-round draft pick who made the Pro Bowl in his second year with the Washington Redskins. An opposing Big Ten player sees hints of J.J. Watt, the former Wisconsin star who has become the NFL's best defender with the Houston Texans.
The comparisons for Joey Bosa are lofty and justified. A junior defensive end at Ohio State, Bosa is a unanimous All-America selection and the reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, and he looks every bit like the league's next transcendent defensive lineman.
"He's a dominant football player," Rutgers coach Kyle Flood said.
Bosa celebrates sacks with his signature shrug (¯\_(ツ)_/¯), but his teammates, coaches and opponents describe him with bolder emoticons. So do we at ESPN -- Bosa tops our #CFBrank list of the top 100 players in college football entering the 2015 season. He led the Big Ten in sacks (13.5) and tackles for loss (21) last season.
His encore from a breakout sophomore season is postponed until Week 2; he will miss Ohio State's opener at Virginia Tech after violating athletic department policy. The suspension is the first setback for Bosa, who has started 25 games and already ranks among Ohio State's top 10 in career sacks (21), sack yards (154) and tackle for loss yards (187). Bosa has not spoken to the media since his suspension was announced and was unable to comment for this story.
When Bosa does reach the field, opponents will see a player with such a broad skill set that Buckeyes defensive line coach Larry Johnson, who mentored six first-round draft picks during a decorated career at Penn State, said he can't find a parallel.
"Joey's really a different player," Johnson said. "He’s 6-5, he can bend really well, he’s got great hips, great hands, he's explosive. He can play 5-technique, he can play 3-technique, he can stand up, he can drop. He can play in a 3-4, he can play in a four-man front. He'll be attractive to a lot of people because of all the things he can do."
ESPN's Mel Kiper projects Bosa as the No. 1 prospect in the 2016 NFL draft. He would be the first Buckeye to go No. 1 overall since offensive tackle Orlando Pace in 1997, and he would be the third first-round pick in his family -- father John, a defensive tackle at Boston College, went No. 16 overall to Miami in 1987, and uncle Eric Kumerow, a linebacker at Ohio State, went No. 16 overall to Miami in the 1988 draft. Despite Bosa's stand-up and coverage ability, Johnson said he expects him to be a traditional down-lineman rusher, playing at around 280 pounds.
Different elements of Bosa's game stand out to his opponents. His quickness off the line impressed Minnesota coach Jerry Kill, whose team surrendered 1.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss to Bosa in last year's game in Minneapolis.
"He gets into you in a hurry," Kill said, "and he's so damn strong."
Flood mentions Bosa's motor, the term most often used to describe Kerrigan during his Purdue career. Bosa's ability to change direction at 275 pounds makes him nearly impossible for an offensive lineman to contain, but his relentlessness truly wears down opponents.
"He has the size, the strength, the speed, the talent, but his motor is on all the time," Flood said. "Sometimes you coach against talented guys, and you know one out of every three plays, that guy's not chasing the play. He's given up. When you see a guy on film that never takes a play off, it opens your eyes."
Buckeyes All-Big Ten left tackle Taylor Decker described facing Bosa in one-on-one drills this spring as the "most difficult thing I do in practices or games."
"The caliber of player he is, it helps me evolve my game," Decker said. "He's probably going to be the first pick in the draft."
Johnson said Bosa immediately bought into his pass-rush methods, which emphasize hand techniques and hip flexibility. Johnson, who had recruited Bosa while still at Penn State, recognized Bosa's natural rushing skill but wanted him to augment it with takeaways. After forcing no fumbles in 2013, Bosa tied for the Big Ten lead with four last fall and directly contributed to 37 points for Ohio State through strip-sacks or recoveries.
His most famous sack came in the second overtime at Penn State on Oct. 25, when he pushed running back Akeel Lynch into quarterback Christian Hackenberg to seal Ohio State's win.
"He has a bunch of different moves that he can come at you with," Penn State center Angelo Mangiro said. "He has his long arm, has his two-arm bull, has a spin move, has a face spin move."
There's little Bosa cannot do on the field, which means this likely will be his last as a Buckeye. Perhaps he sticks around to play alongside younger brother Nick, the No. 3 recruit in the 2016 class who recently committed to Ohio State. But the two won a state high school championship in Florida in 2012, and if draft projections hold, Joey would have a hard time staying put.
"His potential at the next level is going to be outstanding," Johnson said. "He has a chance to be a first-day guy when all is said and done. But the NFL, that’s not what’s driving him. He wants to be the best college player.
"That’s what got his motor going."