SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — For the first-year defensive linemen who have received the most playing time other than Nick Bosa — redshirt freshman Dre’Mont Jones, redshirt freshman Davon Hamilton and freshman Robert Landers — 2016 has been a great season. Coming into the year, Nick, brother of former OSU All-American and current San Diego Charger Joey Bosa, was expected to make an impact — unlike his fellow freshman counterparts on the defensive front.
After Bosa suffered a torn ACL during his senior year of high school, and starting defensive tackle and redshirt junior Tracy Sprinkle went down with an achilles rupture in the first game of the season, it became apparent OSU needed some big-time minutes from their young players. Although Bosa had a successful rehab period, he still needed time to develop after missing much of the offseason’s drills.
According to the Florida native, 2016 has been about growth more than healing, although the time away ensured he was ready to go late in the season.
“I’ve grown tremendously this whole year,” Bosa said. “From the first day going full speed in camp to now I think … I’ve actually learned how to play football. Let’s just say that. High school was a lot of brute strength and athleticism. And now, I think I have a pretty good skill set. It’s just been fun to progress all year and learn new things every week. The knee is fine.”
Before Bosa started picking up steam as a defender, the interior of the OSU defensive line was a bit of a question mark. That was, until, the trio of Jones, Hamilton and Landers emerged as quality defensive linemen.
Jones leads the group with 46 total tackles, while Hamilton and Landers have combined for 25. Of Landers’ 16 tackles, eight are for a loss.
Success in his first real playing time with a team in national-championship contention is still a little surreal for Jones.
“It set in for my family, not for me yet,” he said. “I’m still in a trance still trying to figure this all out. I’m excited. I’m just ready to go.”
OSU is a program that expects contributions from first-year players the moment they step onto campus, like many other top football universities in the nation. Although the expectation might seem lofty, it has helped lots of players develop into NFL-ready talent as soon as they leave Columbus.
While it’s a bit like a dream for Jones, Bosa had different things in mind when he committed to the Buckeyes.
“I obviously have high expectations of myself,” he said. “I’m not going to come in and not expect to play. The fact that I’ve contributed to a national championship run is surreal.”
While the players have been hard at work all week preparing for the task ahead in Clemson, most players agreed the extra practice is a chance to fine tune their skills. Although Jones agreed the bowl practices are helpful, he said they have more of an impact for next season.
“Bowl practice, period, is really like a mini camp for us ‘cause it’s a chance for the young guys to showcase their talents and show them we can still play,” Jones said. “This kind of just showcases us for next year’s season.”
Recently, Nick Bosa watched his brother throw up an O-H-I-O after getting a sack against Cleveland in the Chargers’ loss last Saturday. Although he has yet to break out any patented moves like Joey’s shrug, Nick said he might give it a try.
“We’ll see,” he said. “I’ll probably just be screaming my head off. Too much adrenaline.”
Bosa and company will be squaring off against Clemson on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl at the University of Phoenix Stadium.