The suspension of one star defensive end meant the blooming of a career for another.
With junior Joey Bosa suspended for the season opener at Virginia Tech, it was redshirt freshman Sam Hubbard who had the opportunity to shine in his place.
In his first game for Ohio State, Hubbard — who played safety in high school then spent time as both a tight end and linebacker in Columbus before settling in permanently at the defensive line — had four tackles and assisted on three others, including a sack of Hokies redshirt senior quarterback Michael Brewer for a loss of five yards.
Despite it being his first appearance in a game situation since his senior year of high school, he said he felt comfortable in the moment.
“It means a lot to me,” Hubbard said. “So excited that I was able to get out there and do my job.”
Hubbard made an early impact with his sack on the Buckeyes’ second defensive series of the game. For a team full of talent on both sides of the ball, Hubbard enjoyed the opportunity to show that he belongs on the first unanimous preseason No. 1 team.
“No one really knew who I was, and I wanted to come out in the game and make my name known,” the Cincinnati native said. “And that first series gave me confidence to do my thing.”
Hubbard’s scarlet-and-gray debut received praise from one of his veteran teammates and captain, linebacker Joshua Perry.
“He did a pretty good job,” the senior said. “You don’t notice a big drop-off there (from Bosa), which is good, and now we know we’ve got some guys who we can truly rotate in there who can play great minutes for us, and we’re looking forward to that.”
Perry said he was happy to see Hubbard make an impact after knowing all the effort the redshirt freshman put in.
“It’s so cool, you just want to see your guys be successful, you want to see them make the plays that you know they can make, and see all their hard work pay off,” he said. “And that’s definitely what we saw out of those guys … moving forward, we expect a lot of out of them.”
Hubbard demonstrated that he is not only gifted athletically, but that he is also good at studying the opposition’s playbook.
When Virginia Tech’s Brewer got hurt and redshirt junior quarterback Brenden Motley took over, Hubbard was critical in making the necessary defensive adjustments that came along with the new player taking snaps.
“We just knew we were going to get a lot more zone read because he’s a real mobile guy. We just had to stay fundamentally sound and squeeze the tackles and make sure we were watching him,” Hubbard said.
With Bosa set to return on Saturday when the Buckeyes host the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors in the team’s home opener, Hubbard’s future playing time is uncertain. However, if Monday’s game is any indication, defensive coordinator Luke Fickell and coach Urban Meyer have a quality reserve waiting to contribute in any capacity.