Last season, the Ohio State football team relied heavily on its secondary — namely, safety Malik Hooker and cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore, and Gareon Conley — to be the playmakers and backbone on the Buckeyes’ defense.
With the departure of this athletic trio for the NFL draft, however, the “Silver Bullets” will now lean on an experienced defensive line to lead the way for defensive coordinator Greg Schiano in his first full season at the helm of the defense.
As spring practice began this week, Schiano said the team has some lofty challenges ahead of it after losing a handful of key components on the roster. However, Schiano said he is looking forward to working with the abilities and skill he has upfront on defense.
“That’s a heck of a group and I think we got really elite defensive lineman, and I think we have the best defensive line coach (Larry Johnson) in America,” Schiano said. “So, when you put those two things together, it’s fun to work with those guys and I’m excited to see how it all comes together.”
Among those upfront, redshirt senior defensive end Tyquan Lewis returned for his final year of eligibility after the devastating, shutout loss to Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl. Following OSU’s exit out of the College Football Playoff, Lewis said he substantially thought about his plans for the future, but collectively, said he is satisfied with his decision to come back.
“After the game, I had a talk with my family, coach (Larry) Johnson, and I had to evaluate some things,” Lewis said. “There was a lot going into it, I had a lot to consider — the pros and cons and everything. I had to make the right decision, so I chose to come back and I feel that, that was what was best for me.”
Schiano said that as challenging as it will be, he will need to find a way to get Lewis and a talented group of linemen on the field at the same time. With that, Schiano added that improvements can be made to the rotation of redshirt junior Sam Hubbard, senior Jalyn Holmes and sophomore Nick Bosa on the edges, and redshirt sophomore Dre’Mont Jones and redshirt senior Michael Hill at defensive tackle already implemented into the Buckeyes’ scheme.
“Our plan is a very solid and great plan. It keeps everybody fresh. Nobody is playing, like, 70 plays and that’s a good thing,” Lewis said. “Nobody should have to put their bodies through that all the time, and the type of caliber players we have here, you win games like that — with great players.”
Despite being the reigning Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year, Lewis said that he still has improvements to make as a pass rusher in his technique with his hands and hips. Lewis also said that when it comes to being recognized for his performance on the field, his main focus is on being the top player at his position.
“I mean, I just want to be the best. I just want to go out and play hard for my teammates, that’s the main thing,” he said. “Whatever else comes with all the accolades, I mean, I don’t really get into things like that. I just accept them.”