The Joey Bosa story, unlike most of Urban Meyer's recruits, began the minute Bosa stepped on campus. A four-star recruit out of Fort Lauderdale, Bosa's unique blend of power and athleticism allowed him to thrive from day one as a defensive line chess piece who could excel anywhere on the field.
An impressive freshman campaign saw Bosa get better and better as the 2013 season wore on. Bosa chucking Connor Cook to the turf like a rag doll was one of the few moments from the 2013 Big Ten Championship that made Buckeye fans smile, and Freshman All-American honors simply confirmed what everybody already knew: No. 97 must be accounted for at all times on the football field.
Bosa entered his Sophomore campaign with a ton of hype, and while 1.5 sacks in his first three games wasn't bad, Bosa's arrival as the most feared defensive lineman in America came one Saturday afternoon in Columbus against the upset minded Cincinnati Bearcats.
I'm honestly still confused how Bearcats' quarterback Gunner Kiel survived this hit. Regardless, Bosa stepped his game up during the middle of the 2014 campaign to the tune of 8.5 sacks over the course of five games. But with Bosa, raw sack numbers don't tell the whole story. With the ability to engage and shed offensive lineman at will, Bosa was equally difficult to handle in the running game as he was in the passing game.
Then, on one cold fall night with thousands screaming their heads off amidst a sea of white, Bosa took the matter of winning and losing a key football game into his own hands. His sacrifice? Christian Hackenberg.
Yes, Bosa completely obliterating an overwhelmed running back is what will stick out to Buckeyes fans for years to come, but the best part about this play is that Bosa wasn't even supposed to rush the ‘B' gap like he did.
"I was so exhausted I didn't even run the play right. I just shot the gap. I was supposed to loop out. It ended up working out pretty well."
The rest of 2014 also worked out ‘pretty well' for Bosa, as he took home the Big Ten's Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year and its Smith-Brown Defensive Lineman of the Year awards. Unanimous first team All-American honors followed and were the result of Bosa's 13.5 sack season (second highest in Ohio State history). As for crunch time? Bosa played a huge roll in Ohio State's three postseason wins to no one's surprise, and he even tallied a touchdown against the Wisconsin Badgers in the 2014 Big Ten Championship.
After being suspended for the opening game of 2015, Bosa picked up right where he left off. While Bosa wasn't able to replicate the same kind of gaudy sack numbers as a Junior, his impact on the field was still just as dominant. I mean, what was Bosa supposed to do when teams would literally triple team him? Taking one look at Bosa's career stat line makes it pretty clear that this is one of the best defensive linemen that Ohio State has ever seen.
Bosa has the numbers and the accolades, but what traits pop out to scouts on film? Let's take a look.
Strengths: Block shedding, strength, football instinct
A more broad list of Bosa's strengths might read something like this: Everything. But seriously. Watch any game that Bosa has played in from 2014-2015 and it won't take long to figure who is the best player on the field at almost all times.
While Bosa's most ideal NFL position is probably as a 4-3 defensive end, whoever ends up drafting Bosa should continue Ohio State's habit of moving Bosa all around the formation. Here, Bosa lines up as a three-technique defensive tackle in Ohio State's feared ‘rushmen' package.
Curiously, Penn State's design on this play called for their guard to bypass Bosa and instead onto one of Ohio State's linebackers. On a third-and-10 situation that screamed ‘pass', Bosa shows excellent technique by shoving the guard attempting to get to the second level. Ohio State's linebackers are not slow by any stretch of the imagination, but allowing an offensive lineman a clear path to any linebacker typically spells trouble. While Bosa shoving this guard isn't something that will show up on the stat sheet, it's another example of Bosa mastering the little things that help make an entire defense great.
Additionally, Bosa knows that as a defensive lineman, when you are unblocked you need to get your eyes down the line of scrimmage. Plays like Bosa's sack against Penn State are the exception to the rule, but in general: anytime a defensive lineman is left unblocked it is on purpose. In this case, the idea was for Penn State's number 11 to have a solid angle to block Bosa and create a running crease inside. If only it was that easy.
Bosa shrugs (sorry) off the block attempt, which isn't that remarkable until you consider that Bosa was essentially standing still (since he had just redirected the offensive guard) when number 11 came in full speed attempting to move Bosa. Always the playmaker, Bosa isn't satisfied with simply blowing up the play: he finishes it.
Bosa decleats the Penn State running back before he could even decide what to do with the ball. Certain players just seem to have the innate ability to hit guys harder than most, Bosa is one of them.
Weaknesses: Size and speed combination isn't a great NFL fit
Don't get me wrong, at 6'5, 275 lbs Joey Bosa is a load for anyone handle. The only ‘issue' is that Bosa doesn't fit as neatly into NFL defenses as some would like. The prototypical defensive end in today's NFL is someone with elite bend to get around the edge and get after quarterbacks. You'll hear draft experts talk about Bosa as a 10, not 20, sack guy, and this is the main reason why. While Bosa was able to utilize his power and strength to dominate off the edge in college, the thought is that this won't be quite as easy at the next level, and Bosa's lack of elite bend is really the only concern for Bosa as far as pass rushing goes.
Despite his main position in college being as a 4-3 defensive end, Bosa's game might be best suited as a 4-3 defensive tackle or 3-4 defensive end. With plenty of experience rushing on the inside, Bosa possesses rare ability to get to the quarterback consistently wherever he lines up. In order to continue to dominate on the inside of the line like he did in college however, Bosa will need to bulk up a bit as the big uglies he'll be facing off against will all be 300 lbs +.
With all that said: Joey Bosa is my pick as the number one overall prospect in the 2016 class.
Best Case NFL Comparison: Justin Smith
Please for the love of god stop the J.J Watt comparisons. Watt is going to go down as one of the most dominant players to ever play football, so setting Bosa's expectation as a potential top 10 player ever seems like a bit much don't you think?
As LGHL's fearless leader Luke Zimmermann pointed out, Justin Smith is a much more realistic comparison for Bosa. Putting aside the fact that they're both white, Smith made a career out of making plays in San Francisco from his 3-4 defensive end spot. Most importantly, Smith was such a force that he needed to be double teamed at all times, which led to his teammates (most notably Aldon Smith) racking up sacks. Sound familiar Columbus?
Worst Case NFL Comparison: Chris Long
Bosa's floor as a NFL player appears to be as a plus run defender who may be sporadically taken off the field in passing situations. This would be a fine NFL career for most, but as Chris Long knows, a fine NFL career won't cut it for a top five overall pick.
While Long has had his moments in the league, injuries and the emergence of fellow defensive end Robert Quinn has made the one time number two overall pick an afterthought. Recently signed this past off-season by the New England Patriots, Long continues to receive interest as a potentially dominant defensive end since everyone knows the ability is there.
While both Bosa and Long also have had successful NFL fathers, the worry with Bosa is that when a team spends a top five pick on a defensive end, the desired result is more Von Miller impact, not Chris Long.
NFL Draft Projection: Top 10 pick
It pains me that I had to write 10 instead of five, but mock drafts have continued to show Bosa sliding down the board. While the Chicago Bears at pick number 11 should be seen as Bosa's floor, don't be shocked if Bosa is gone as early as pick number four.
Most ‘Joey Bosa' Play: Thanks for playing, Jake
While Bosa's sack against Penn State is probably his most memorable play, the fact of the matter is that Bosa ran over a running back who was obviously in over his head with that blocking assignment. I think a play where the offense purposely overloads their line to account for Bosa, only to watch as he gets around the edge unopposed on his way to slamming his ex-high school teammate and hated Wolverine quarterback to the ground, does the trick.