Ohio State's stash of great athletes with rare size and ability is comical.
Potential starting quarterback Cardale Jones presents problems with his 6'5, 250-pound frame, linebacker Darron Lee brings unusual speed to the space-backer position, the offensive line is filled with road graders, and the 2014 defensive line averaged 6'4, 277 without sacrificing speed.
One of those athletic freaks along the line has really captured the NFL's attention. Defensive end Joey Bosa might be the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft.
Bosa's talent is apparent enough simply from a glance at his numbers. As a sophomore, he posted 55 tackles, 21 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks, along with four forced fumbles and four hurries. His awesome production as an edge player makes him an obvious target for the NFL, where Super Bowls can't be won without defending the likes of Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady.
More than that, Bosa's the kind of versatile anchor today's defenses need. Call it the J.J. Watt effect if you like, but long, powerful, and twitchy defensive linemen who can play multiple spots are at a premium.
Joey Bosa the athlete
As good as Bosa's numbers are, the difference-making tidbit is that he's 6'6 and 276 pounds. College football is chock full of 6'2, 250-pound DEs. There's a limited supply of especially athletic ones, but their skill doesn't always translate to the NFL, where they'll regularly face 300-pounders who are just as nimble as they are.
Bosa is a different story.
He has the speed to take the edge against an offensive tackle ...
... but even here, he's using his heavy hands to blast away the tackle's attempts to slow him down.
The real skill is in his ability to combine suddenness in a short area with his raw power. That means he can win battles inside:
On this play, his burst allows him to out-leverage both the tackle and guard in a condensed space, while his power makes it easy to rip through them.
That kind of speed at his size is easy to project as problematic for professional lineman. Perhaps an NFL guard or tackle can't always stay in front of a speedy pass-rusher, but if their advantages in power are negated, they have no recourse but to hold and hope to avoid a flag.
Bosa has played on the right side at Ohio State. That means he sometimes draws inferior pass-protectors, but also misses out on the opportunity to attack the QB's blindside, useful for finishing in the backfield. From this position in the Buckeyes' 4-3 front, he got to demonstrate effective run skills:
He's two-gapping Bama's second-team All-SEC right tackle, Austin Shepherd, and resetting the line of scrimmage into the backfield before making the tackle.
Bosa's sacks were largely a bonus. His main accomplishment was neutralizing the right side, generally where a team prefers to run the ball.
This is the truly unique value of Bosa, both for the Buckeyes and whichever NFL team has the opportunity to draft him.
How you use a Joey Bosa
Massive, fast, two-gapping ends who post double-digit sack seasons have a nice history in the NFL. While Bosa doesn't have the same incredible knack for deflecting passes as Watt, his projection is still comparable.
In today's game, it's increasingly difficult to get pressure on the edge. Spread passing teams can get the ball out to slot receivers so quickly that it can be risky to commit edge athletes to rushing the passer without yielding easy gains.
When the offense is flooding the fields with water bugs and allowing the QB to make lightning quick reads, even rushing four defenders becomes a slight risk.
More teams are employing the strategy of trying to generate quick pressure in the middle, which can really rattle a spread passing attack. Enter the massive lineman who can get quick pressure inside.
Bosa's skills provide unique value in stopping the run/pass-option offenses that are taking over college football and creeping into the NFL. The Buckeyes are among several teams that have their DEs help cancel out the B-gaps (between guard and tackle), freeing linebackers to defend quick passes.
If the M linebacker doesn't have to worry about both the B-gap and covering that H receiver, the RPO is no longer a winning chalkboard concept for the offense. The point is to attack the conflict defender, but he isn't exactly conflicted if the E can take on that part of the load.
His other tremendous value comes in allowing a defense to rush only three and still have a chance to collapse the pocket. Edge rushers will always have value, but the player who excels at inside moves and playing all over the line can allow a defense to pinpoint weak spots while preventing the offensive line from doing the same.
His excellence in space and in the trenches allows him to be used all over on third down. Bosa can line up inside as a three-tech and win a one-on-one matchup or stunt elsewhere. He can also stand up as a blitzer who has to be picked up by an out-leveraged OL or a running back.
In college, you only see this in glimpses. It's not really worth the college coordinator's time to install multiple pressure packages in limited practices. In the NFL, versatile players don't have to worry about classes getting in the way of learning a wide variety of schemes.
Bosa is not the least of Ohio State's returning horrors, and his talents should wreak even more destruction before he's finally shipped off to the NFL, where he belongs.