Ohio State went into the season with two starting defensive ends — Nick Bosa and Jonathon Cooper — and shock trooper Chase Young rolling into the rotation regularly.
But with Bosa injured after suffering a lower abdominal/groin strain in the second half of the TCU game last week, the frontline ends are down to two. The pressure is on to increase production.
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Especially for Young. He was expected to become more of a force his sophomore season after three defensive ends from last season were taken in the NFL draft.
He has had some moments, such as his two sacks. But he’s been in on just two other tackles. And he was ejected from the last home game, the Big Ten opener against Rutgers, after being flagged for two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.
Is Young up to the task of replacing Bosa and his on-field presence, starting Saturday against Tulane?
“I’ve worked out with the guy for the past two years now,” Cooper said. “I know what type of guy he is. We’re bros. I mean, is he up to the task? I don’t think that’s a question.”
And defensive line coach Larry Johnson and coordinator Greg Schiano don’t expect Young and Cooper to immediately become a dynamic duo.
“What it might lead to is even more playing time for Chase,” Schiano said of the absence of Bosa, the team leader in tackles (14) and sacks (4). “We had a rotation going. You lose a key member of the rotation.
“But Coach J always has a way of winding somebody in there and they rise to the occasion. So (Young’s) repetitions might go up a little bit, but I think some of the young guys will step up.”
Freshmen Tyreke Smith and Tyler Friday could be in for more playing time, as well as junior Jashon Cornell. And defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones said he’s willing to swing out to his original position if so ordered. The challenge will be to maintain the production of Bosa, even if it means a tag-team effort.
“They understand, and coach Johnson makes it very clear what kind of production we need out of our defensive line,” Schiano said. “The fortunate thing is we have good players in addition to Nick, but Nick’s special.”