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Larry Johnson’s defensive line is NFL caliber from top to bottom

And some of those players don’t get enough credit.

NCAA Football: Cotton Bowl-Ohio State vs Southern California Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

“We put the Ohio State brand on film. We were showing what Coach [Larry] Johnson helped us be and how we developed at Ohio State.”

-Ohio State defensive end Tyquan Lewis, via Ryan Ginn, Land of 10

Larry Johnson has done a tremendous job in his time in Columbus. The defensive line coach has sent three linemen to the NFL since joining the program in 2014, with several more projected to go in this spring’s draft.

Often discounted among those projected draftees are defensive ends Tyquan Lewis and Jalyn Holmes. On a line where Sam Hubbard and Nick Bosa have shined alongside Dre’Mont Jones and Tracy Sprinkle, and where freshman Chase Young and sophomore Robert Landers made impact plays of their own, it is certainly easy to overlook two more outstanding linemen. However, Lewis and Holmes are more than they have been made out to be by draft scouts, as exhibited by their respective performances at the Senior Bowl Saturday. Holmes had two sacks on the day, while Lewis recorded one of his own (he was in on another sack with Oklahoma’s Ogbonnia Okoronkwo), with the pair combining for eight total tackles.

Lewis accrued 23 sacks over his last three years at defensive end for the Buckeyes, while Holmes has earned five in four seasons. While Holmes is critiqued for his lack of production, Lewis is cited for a lack of athleticism. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Holmes often played out of position on the line, often at defensive tackle or linebacker and thereby limiting production. Lewis, meanwhile, was a workhorse in his time with the Buckeyes and was athletic where it counted (he is sixth all-time in program history in sacks).

The cruel irony is that the true differentiator of the Ohio State defensive line is its depth. While players like Joey Bosa and Hubbard are widely regarded, the likes of Lewis and Holmes are not far behind. Each had games on par with their peers, and should be in contention for an NFL Draft pick come April.

“I understand competition at its deepest level. For me personally, I try to do things that look at every angle of it. I feel like an event like this should be showcased for everyone--their fans, our supporters, and wrestling fans in general.”

-Ohio State wrestling coach Tom Ryan, via Mark Podolski, The News Herald

No. 2 Ohio State is gearing up for the biggest showdown in college wrestling this season as they prepare to take on No. 1 Penn State next week. The dual match, which features 20 wrestlers from 10 weight classes, pits eight former national champions against one another, including two, two-time national champs. However, due to some conference-level scheduling conflicts, few will actually see it live, and the match is gearing up to be highly inaccessible for students. Standing room only tickets are going for $80, while matside tickets will set you back upwards of $500. Capacity for Penn State’s Rec Hall is just 6,502.

Ohio State wrestling coach Tom Ryan is not pleased with the arrangement, stating that he is “disappointed they are not having it in a bigger venue.” By comparison, more than 15,000 people attended Ohio State’s win over then-No. 4 Iowa in Columbus at the Schottenstein Center. Ohio State athletics moved the match from St. John’s Arena, wrestling’s normal home, to accommodate for the increased interest in the match.

Penn State responded that the Big Ten, not the university, was responsible for the scheduling. The Nittany Lions will also be hosting a men’s basketball game Feb. 3 at 6 p.m.--two hours ahead of the start time for the wrestling match--with timing determined by the conference. This scheduling prevents both events from being held in the Bryce Jordan Center, which has a capacity of 15,261.

Setting Ryan off even further is the fact that no student tickets were available for Ohio State fans willing to travel to the match. The Penn State athletic department responded that 75 tickets were made available to the Ohio State team, which the department said is standard for visiting opponents.

Both Penn State and Ohio State enter this dual undefeated and with strong resumes under their respective belts. Despite the capacity and scheduling issues surrounding the day, this match could be a preview of what is to come in March in the NCAA Championships in Cleveland.

“From a leadership standpoint, I just try to do everything right and be an example so far. Stuff hasn’t gotten too crazy yet. But when stuff starts getting crazy, I’m going to have to talk guys through stuff and just try to be that leader and that vocal leader.”

-Ohio State safety Jordan Fuller, via Tim Bielik, Cleveland.com

Junior safety Jordan Fuller has had no shortage of role models in his time at Ohio State. As a freshman, he played behind future first-round pick Malik Hooker and Damon Webb. Last season, Fuller played alongside Webb at safety, having beaten out redshirt senior Erik Smith for the starting spot. It was a big question heading into the 2017 season, given the loss of Hooker to the NFL, but Fuller did not disappoint.

Now, with Webb leaving for the NFL, Fuller is the veteran safety on the team and the leader of the young safety unit. The rest of the roster contains four sophomores and three incoming freshman, including one early enrollee. Isaiah Pryor, a sophomore from Georgia, is currently projected to be Fuller’s counterpart at safety, having played in 12 games last season and making an impact mainly on special teams.

The big stage did not seem to daunt Fuller, who recorded an interception in his first collegiate start against Indiana in the 2017 season opener. He continued to play strong throughout the season, leading Ohio State in solo tackles with 49 on the year, and showed up in big games--like when he tackled Penn State’s Saquon Barkley for a loss late in the comeback win. His second interception of the year came against Michigan in the fourth quarter, effectively sealing the Buckeyes’ win. Fuller will not only be a leader in the secondary, but to the defense as a whole moving forward.

That role becomes even more crucial as Urban Meyer breaks in a new coach in Alex Grinch, who will be filling the co-defensive coordinator position and likely defensive backs coach following the departure of Kerry Coombs for the Titans. Grinch, an Ohio native, came from Washington State, where he greatly improved the Cougars’ struggling defense under Mike Leach.

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