Let’s get this out of the way: Nick Bosa has “only” four sacks this season.
That’s a solid number, tied for seventh in the Big Ten. But Bosa knows that most people judge defensive ends by their sack total.
Unwittingly, he might be playing so well that he is changing that. This week, the Ohio State sophomore was named a semifinalist for the Bednarik Award, given to the best defensive player in college football.
On Wednesday, Buckeyes defensive-line coach Larry Johnson gushed about Bosa. He compared him favorably with older brother Joey — already a star with the Los Angeles Chargers — at the same stage.
“You look at Joey’s sophomore year, and you look at Nick’s sophomore year,” Johnson said. “Nick is starting to rise. They’re two different guys with the same skills — great hips, great hands and great athletes who can explode.”
Heading into a game Saturday at Iowa, Bosa has 10 tackles for loss this season, tied for the most in the Big Ten.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said Bosa was credited with seven quarterback hurries against Penn State. According to Pro Football Focus, it was nine.
“I think he’s an All-American, no question about it,” Johnson said. “You just can’t match what he’s doing right now.”
But Bosa admits that he wants more sacks.
“One sack gets you more attention than nine QB hurries,” he said. “(But) it’s not about the attention. It’s about altering the game. I think I helped alter the game.”
Bosa and the rest of the Buckeyes’ defensive linemen took over the Penn State game when Ohio State desperately needed stops.
“I think I’ve been winning a lot,” Bosa said of his play-by-play battles. “There’s always room for improvement. I just need to finish plays more, and then I’ll get the recognition I think I deserve. I think I’m playing well. I also think the defense is playing very well.”
As well as he is playing, he’s unlikely to match his brother’s numbers at OSU. Joey Bosa finished his three-year career in 2015 with 26 sacks. However, the Buckeyes didn’t have the defensive-line depth then that they do now. That allows Johnson to limit his players to 40 or fewer snaps.
Opponents also are so wary of Ohio State’s pass rush that they scheme for their quarterbacks to get rid of the ball quickly.
“College sacks are a lot of skill and a lot of luck,” Bosa said. “In the pros, there’s a lot more skill because they’re sitting back there throwing downfield. “With our D-line, not many quarterbacks are looking at their receivers. They’re looking at us and waiting for us to win (our battles) and then playing off where we go.”
This week has a chance to be different. Iowa uses a pro-style offense, and injuries have forced the Hawkeyes to use a pair of freshmen at the tackle spots.
But Bosa isn’t holding his breath at the prospect of a sack-fest against Iowa’s Nate Stanley.
“I’m sure he’ll be getting rid of it quickly like the other guys" have done, Bosa said.
Whether he catches Stanley or not, Bosa probably will do plenty to affect him.
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