SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly was hoping to strike a deal with Urban Meyer about where Ohio State junior defensive end Joey Bosa would line up Friday when the two teams square off in the Fiesta Bowl.
The Buckeyes are missing both their starters at defensive tackle, which has given birth to the possibility of Bosa spending more snaps at the interior spots, rather than his usual place at the end.
“If (Bosa) comes inside, that would be awesome,” Kelly said. “If we could make an agreement before the game that he was going to play the 3-technique then we would be very happy.”
Kelly said he asked Meyer about inking such an agreement, and he got the kind of response many would predict.
“He was noncommittal,” Kelly said, laughing, of Meyer’s response to his proposition.
But about 45 minutes later, while addressing the media to kick off OSU’s media day, Meyer offered a more concrete answer to Kelly’s inquiry.
Meyer was rattling off some of the names of some relatively unknown players expected to fill in for injured senior Tommy Schutt and suspended senior Adolphus Washington, such as sophomore Michael Hill and redshirt sophomore Tracy Sprinkle, before mentioning a more well-known guy.
“Then, obviously, Joey Bosa will be playing some on the inside,” Meyer said.
Based off that, Kelly, it appears, will be getting his wish. Exactly how much time Bosa spends there is unclear, but regardless, whenever the two-time All-American slides inside, Kelly will be happy.
Bosa, though, doesn’t understand exactly why the coach feels that way.
“I don’t know,” Bosa said, chuckling. “I have no idea because I think 3-technique is easier, honestly, to be disruptive.”
The occasional migration to playing defensive tackle is something Bosa has done before this season, but mainly on third-down passing situations. But with Washington and Schutt sidelined, he will likely be there in scenarios outside of the previously mentioned one.
“It’s nothing completely new,” Bosa said.
There are similarities between his familiar role as a 4- and 5-technique end, Bosa explained, but the main differences are in the run fits and the size of pass-rush lanes.
Bosa said he likes being on the inside because he can, usually, rush the passer on both sides of his blocker, rather than being on the outside where he typically tries to beat the tackle on the edge.
As for why Kelly might want him on the inside, Bosa later suggested he thinks the coach might find it easier to double team him that way. That is nothing new to the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, native, though, as he has faced a barrage of blocking combinations this year attempting to slow him down.
“Something that’s not going to go away,” Bosa said.
Regardless of which technique Bosa plays, he said he knows it will be a challenge against the Notre Dame offensive line, as he called it “one of the best, if not the best, we’ve played this year.”
That unit is led by senior left tackle Ronnie Stanley, who many consider to be a sure-fire first-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft.
Bosa said the opportunity to go up against fellow elite talent is something he values highly, and Stanley fits that bill.
The 6-foot-5, 315-pound Stanley echoed Bosa’s view.
“I mean, if you want to be the best you’ve got to go up against the best,” Stanley said. “We’re both really good at our positions. I’m sure we’re both really excited to go up against each other.
“That’s what competitors want to do.”
Guard Quenton Nelson said the Fighting Irish aren’t going to change what they have been doing all season just because they’re playing against Bosa. The redshirt freshman labeled him an “incredible player,” but Nelson said Notre Dame will stick with its base concepts to try and impede Bosa.
Those concepts include frequent double-teams of opposing defensive ends, which the team used against Texas and Virginia, Nelson said.
But, Nelson added, the Fighting Irish trust the ability of their own players to match up one-on-one with the opposition.
That means Stanley and Bosa, two first-round talents, might go mano-a-mano during the Fiesta Bowl.
“I’m sure that’s going to happen,” Stanley said, cracking a smile.
Junior right tackle Mike McGlinchey said no matter what Bosa is doing and where he’s doing it, the talent around No. 97 poses a difficult task for the offensive line, even with Washington and Schutt out of the lineup.
“They’re all good players, I mean Ohio State is stacked,” McGlinchey said. “There is not much letdown.”
Which is why Bosa said he doesn’t feel too much added pressure from losing two starters. All season long, he said, Sprinkle and Hill, as well as redshirt senior Joel Hale and sophomore Donovan Munger, have had the reps in practice to prepare them for this moment.
“We all trust them,” Bosa said, “to go in there and do their job.”
As for Bosa, who is potentially playing his final game in scarlet and gray, he will likely keep doing the job he’s been doing so well since arriving in Columbus.
Kelly might be so optimistic about Bosa playing inside because he doesn’t have to block him.
But McGlinchey, who does have to block him, said he knows Bosa will be effective wherever he plays.
“No matter where he plays we’re going to be accounting for him,” McGlinchey said.
Although Kelly’s wish might come true, Bosa said he thinks Kelly might be selling his ability on the inside short.
“Yeah,” Bosa said, squeaking out a smile, “a little bit.”