The evolution of Ohio State's Joey Bosa

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- No matter how many hours might be spent in the film room, how many more pounds he might squat in the weight room or pass-rush moves he has perfected, there is a strategy against Joey Bosa that he hasn't quite figured out how to beat yet.

Maybe at some point Ohio State's superstar defensive end will crack the code, but for now, a triple team is still proving effective enough at keeping him out of the offensive backfield.

It might also be the only way.

"Couldn't really say there's a technique to use there," Bosa said with a laugh. "I pretty much just have to try to hang in there, fight as hard as I can to get out of it."

The volume of double and triple teams Bosa faced caused a relative dip in his personal numbers to 16 tackles for loss and 5 sacks and also cost him some hardware this season, there's no question about that. But there's still nobody in the country that demands more attention or is capable of having a bigger impact on the field than the two-time consensus All-America. He has universally been praised as being a more effective, more complete defender than he's ever been before, which his wire-to-wire status as the presumptive No. 1 NFL draft pick this spring also confirms.

But for as productive as he's been for Ohio State, the making of a bona fide monster didn't happen overnight.

And his evolution might not even be complete quite yet.

'The complete transformation of Joey Bosa'

Just before dimming the lights in the defensive meeting room, Larry Johnson flashes a grin as he cues up the video.

"If I had an hour, I would show you the complete transformation of Joey Bosa," Johnson said. "I could show you where he started, where he's at now as he continues to improve.

"It's really fun."

Johnson settles for a 15-minute crash course instead, but that is more than enough to drive the point home. Bosa was certainly productive as a freshman with 7.5 sacks, but his techniques look far different on video now.

Under former position coach Mike Vrabel, Bosa's go-to "club-and-rip, wipe-down" was obviously effective, but the approach didn't match up to what Johnson views as the most effective way to pass rush. So Johnson, who was hired two years ago after a long, decorated career at Penn State, went right to work teaching Bosa the basic techniques that have turned him into a terror -- the side scissors, the double scissors, inside side scissors and the long arm.

All of them rely on generating power from the lower body, with the first three moves at their most basic describing the way a blocker's arms are attacked, pushing them away to help allow somebody like Bosa to get room to "lean, burst and accelerate" on the way to the quarterback. The long arm is essentially a bullish, power move -- and it's the one Bosa has made most famous by driving a perfectly-placed, extended arm into an opponent and driving them into the backfield. On multiple occasions, Bosa has taken them all the way into the lap of a quarterback, like he did with a walk-off sack at Penn State as a sophomore.

Bosa was largely only in the early stages of learning under Johnson then, but the results were clear almost right away.

"Probably about 30 reps of doing it, he did it perfect," Johnson said. "He was eating it up. Anything brand new, it was like, more, more, more, more, more. Because he saw the results, he saw his hips got better, he understood it. It was, 'This stuff works at the highest level, just watch.'

He bought into it and just ate it alive, because he saw the benefit of it. That guy listens, and with Joey, he takes it right to heart and he does it. He's by the book in how you should do it."

'It's night and day different'

There has always been a magnetic pull between Bosa and the weight room that dates back to his high school days.

Part genetics from a football family that has seen both his dad and uncle play in the NFL, part competitiveness to prove he could lift more plates than anybody around him, Bosa has never been shy about logging extra workout time.

But as far as logging extra hours anywhere else in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center? Not so much.

"When he was a freshman he did stuff because he had to do it," strength coach Mickey Marotti said. "Last year he kind of was half and half -- doing it because he had to do it and also because he kind of wanted to do it.

"This year, it's because he wants to do it because he knows it has helped him."

The benefits of the added time and extra work in the practice facility aren't immediately clear on the surface or in the box score. And initially Bosa had a difficult time understanding why he might need to get a massage before practice when his body was already feeling fine.

But over time it became apparent that showing up at 11 in the morning after class every day for treatment was helping ensure that he could stay as fresh as possible and avoid seeing the training staff for nagging issues. After all, nobody is immune to the wear and tear of college football, -- not even 6-foot-5, 275-pound physical freaks.

"When you're a freshman here, your body feels good, you feel like you don't need to be in treatment and you're doing these silly workouts," Bosa said. "You're like, 'Why does this help?'

"Then once you do it and do it and do it, you realize the impact it has on helping you feel better, play better. Once I bought into that -- it wasn't just this year, it's been slowly progressing since I've been here, but now I just think it's doing more for me than ever."

That same revelation came from 90-minute film study sessions before practice. Instead of focusing solely on himself and his matchups, Bosa started expanding his knowledge of offenses as a whole in an effort to start diagnosing plays before the snap.

And it continued when the Buckeyes came off the practice field as well, with Bosa loading up his iPad with film from the workout as soon as possible to watch that night and evaluate his progress with the moves he needed to utilize for games that week.

Bosa will disconnect from football for a bit at home, and video games still provide favorite way to unwind. "Halo" was his top choice in his shrinking free time at the end of the season, and he didn't have much interest in removing that from his list of daily activities.

But Bosa did make one notable change off the field, largely disconnecting from Twitter just a year after he had seemingly become the poster boy for the social-media age with his frequent entertaining, revealing posts.

"Twitter, you just get sick of reading things," Bosa said. "I still have my account, but I haven't been on it at all this season. Of course, it's a good tool to have in the future for marketing and stuff like that, having all those people following you, so I didn't want to get rid of it completely. But it's just about a bunch of nonsense that's distracting me from what I should be focusing on."

On and off the field, Bosa was treating his craft like a full-time job, fueled even more by the results it was bringing.

"He's never been a bad guy," coach Urban Meyer said. "Always been a great kid, but he really wasn't a leader -- kind of a guy in the back of the room.

"Now he's in the front of the room, and it's night and day different. He's here all day long."

'Everything falls into place'

Even in the one area where Bosa never needed any extra prodding, there was still a little nonsense that had to be removed from the equation over the years.

His power has never been a question, but where others might have been amazed by the feats of strength that kept showing up online during his recruitment, Bosa's strength coach saw a potential problem.

"There were YouTube videos of him squatting 650 pounds and then jumping on boxes and backflips," Marotti said. "And that's great for YouTube and stuff, but is that the smartest way to prepare yourself to play the game of the football?

"The recruiting guy would come in here and show me, and I'd be like, I don't want to see that s---. It looked like a movie. This big, giant person getting ready to lift with all these little people around him, cheering him on and yelling. I was like, get that away from me. I told him as soon as he got here, we're going to train the right way, not that stupid s---."

That hard reset of his mentality might not have clicked instantly, but, like everything else, eventually Marotti's more "wholesome training" struck the right chord.

Suddenly, even something as simple as stretching became a priority and a part of the routine Bosa could no longer imagine skipping.

"I mean, it's a lot of stress on your body," Bosa said. "Of course I always liked to get extra work in the weight room, that's always been something I enjoyed in there. It was all the other stuff that I never really did as much as I should, and with my body just wearing down after these three years, it's pretty much every minute I could be in here, I am in here working

"It's about getting my body right before practice, taking care of my body. And then the football aspect with the film and everything falls in place after that."

Scary thought: Bosa's just getting started

The scariest thing to imagine is what might Bosa's college career have looked like had he come to all those conclusions sooner.

Meyer pondered the topic for a second, chuckled and ultimately settled on calling it "interesting to think about."

Johnson and Marotti haven't spent any time worrying about it, instead focusing on the fact that any development process takes time and is always ongoing.

Bosa leaned back on a bench in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, naturally a couple hours after he arrived, and quietly deliberated for a few seconds.

"I mean, who knows," Bosa said. "You never know. Maybe I would have made a few more plays if I had done this or did that, but you can't really tell.

"All I know is that I'm happy that I have a good mindset now and I can only look to get better in the future."

And if the best is still to come, who knows exactly what the monster Ohio State has helped create might eventually look like.

Maybe even triple teams won't be good enough anymore.