One of the great benefits of being a college football mega-program is that, even when a star talent is lost to injury, suspension or just plain old graduation, there’s very often somebody nearly as good ready to step in and fill the void.
Such is the case with the Ohio State Buckeyes and their superstar defensive end, Joey Bosa.
When news broke earlier this summer that Bosa and three other Buckeyes—H-backs Jalin Marshall and Dontre Wilson, along with wideout Corey Smith—would be suspended for the Buckeyes’ season-opening trip to Virginia Tech, speculation began almost immediately as to the impact of those suspensions. More specifically, the discussions focused specifically on whether the loss of Bosa, Marshall, Wilson and Smith would be enough to close the talent gap between the Buckeyes and Hokies—and allow Frank Beamer’s bunch to steal a huge Week 1 upset.
I have made clear elsewhere that, no, I don’t think Ohio State will lose to Virginia Tech on Sept. 7. I just think, even taking the suspensions into account, the Buckeyes are light-years better than the Hokies. And that’s actually no slight against Tech; I think they’re a pretty darn good team.
It’s just that the Buckeyes are an otherworldly team. It’s no accident, after all, that this Ohio State team has become the first unanimous preseason Associated Press No. 1 in the history of the game. This is a team that is led by one of the greatest coaches the game that has ever seen. A team that has talent at every position on the field. And a team that has depth at (almost) every position on the field, too.
I will concede that the loss of Wilson, Marshall and Smith will be problematic for the Buckeyes. This team was already tasked with replacing both Devin Smith and Evan Spencer from last year’s national championship team, and not having those guys against the Hokies will inevitably make things more difficult for whoever ultimately lines up behind center for Ohio State.
But without Bosa?
Well, I think Ohio State should be just fine.
First and foremost, that’s because as good as Bosa is, he’s only one cog—albeit, and important one—in a defense that is absolutely stacked with talent. Would the Buckeyes prefer to have Bosa in the lineup? Of course. But do they need him to shut down the Hokies? No, they don’t.
There is, meanwhile, one other big reason why the loss of Bosa won’t set the Buckeyes back—at least not too much, that is.
That reason is Tyquan Lewis.
The 6-4, 240-pound sophomore probably flew under the radar for most college football watchers last year, but Buckeye fans—and Buckeye opponents—almost certainly took notice of this star in the making. On Sept. 7 in Blacksburg, the rest of the nation will wake up to Lewis’ potential, too.
Serving ostensibly as the Buckeyes’’ fourth-choice defensive end last season, Lewis played just over 200 snaps, registering nine tackles, including 2 ½ tackles for loss and a half-sack. Perhaps most importantly, though, he played 25 snaps in the Buckeyes’ national championship win over Oregon. Thrown into the fire on the biggest stage possible, Lewis more than held his own; the confidence he gained from that experience, he’s said this summer, has only helped him grow into his new role, this season, as a starter—and a potential breakout star.
Starting with the Buckeyes’ Week 2 matchup against Hawaii, Lewis will have the benefit of playing off Bosa—a situation that should open up plenty of opportunities for him to make game-changing plays as offenses focus their attention on shutting down big No. 97.
Against the Hokies, of course, Bosa won’t be there, and Lewis will have to make those big plays on his own.
You can expect that he will do precisely that—and play a huge part in a big Week 1 victory for the Buckeyes.