COLUMBUS – It’s mysterious – or maybe it should be – why anyone would ever think Nick Bosa would be affected by other people’s expectations.
Not after the expectations he grew up with as a Bosa.
Not after the ones he’s always had of himself.
As his big brother Joey put it after Nick suffered a season-ending ACL injury in his senior season of high school football, “I know he’s going to recover faster than most people because, I guess, he’s a Bosa. That’s the only way to say it.”
Joey Bosa became an All-American defensive end in his three seasons at Ohio State and was the No. 3 overall pick in last year’s NFL draft.
The Bosa brothers’ dad, John, and their uncle Eric Kumerow were first-round choices in the 1980s.
From the time he was a sophomore in high school at Florida football powerhouse Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, recruiting analysts and former OSU standout Cris Carter have said Nick might be the best prospect in his family.
Coming off ACL surgery, he had a freshman season at Ohio State that would have been considered notable for most first-year players on a team contending for a national championship when he had five sacks and seven tackles for losses.
But, with more competition ahead of him, he didn’t become a full-time starter like Joey, who had 7.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for losses as a freshman in 2013.
Ohio State was careful not to rush Bosa during preseason practice and early in the season to make sure his knee was ready for the demands of a long football season.
He got his first sack in the season opener against Bowling Green and became a bigger part of the defensive line rotation by early October.
With a full spring practice work schedule, Saturday’s spring game at Ohio Stadium, and no restrictions during preseason practice, even bigger things are expected from Bosa in his second season at OSU.
“I was healthy last season but I feel like I’ve gotten so much better this spring,” the sophomore defensive end said.
“I just want to get better at everything. There’s not one thing I feel I’m weak at. But I feel like I need to up everything I do. And I feel like I have so far,” he said.
OSU defensive line coach Larry Johnson compares the two Bosas he has coached this way:
“There are some similarities because they’re from the same blood. Joey was a relentless player, he was powerful. Nick is more finesse but he’s just a freshman so we’ll have to see where it goes from here.”
He called the younger Bosa “a year ahead in his progression” and said, “Nick probably learned some things earlier than Joey did. He’s done a great job. He is locked in and he will be a pretty good player for us.”
Bosa’s natural position, and his favorite, is defensive end.
But he was used at times on the interior of the defensive line last fall and both of last season’s starters at defensive end, Tyquan Lewis and Sam Hubbard, are back this season.
He will play wherever he’s told to play, but there is no doubt what Bosa prefers.
“Outside (defensive end) is where I want to be. It’s where I want to be in the future,” he said.
With Lewis, Hubbard, Bosa and Jalyn Holmes, Ohio State has one of the best defensive end groups in the country.
Despite that, the Buckeyes only tied for seventh in the Big Ten in sacks last season with 28 of them, down from the 38 they had in 2015.
So, getting the quarterback on the ground has been a point of emphasis this spring.
“I think if we’re going full speed we’re the best pass rushers in the country,” Bosa said. “Last year we weren’t getting off the ball like we should have. This year I think we’re going to be more of a defensive line oriented team.”
Urban Meyer has suggested playing five defensive linemen at the same time as a possible way of using the defensive line talent.
“We have five premier (defensive linemen) in my mind – four defensive ends and Dre’Mont Jones. I would like to see all five on the field at one time,” Meyer said.
Whether this will be a significant part of OSU’s defense, a sideshow or is just a feint to give opposing teams something to think about remains to be seen.
But seeing Bosa putting pressure on opposing offenses appears to be a sure thing this fall.