Joey Bosa was the lone Associated Press first-team All-American for the Buckeyes in the national championship season of 2014. Four years later, the Buckeyes are looking to make another run at the College Football Playoff, and defensive end Nick Bosa arguably is as talented as any player on the OSU roster.
Is he as good as his older brother, who was the third pick of the 2016 NFL Draft? Well, maybe not quite yet. But Nick was named the Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year after a sophomore season in which the 6-4, 263-pounder racked up eight sacks and led the Buckeyes with 16 tackles for a loss despite sharing time on the line.
A product of powerful St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale just like Joey, Nick now is a starter and bona fide star for OSU and his beloved position coach, Larry Johnson. The junior DE also is an Academic All-Big Ten honoree.
Athlon Sports had a chance to sit down with Nick in the spring and got his take on why he loves playing end, if he minds the constant comparisons to his brother and what Big Ten head coach other than Urban Meyer he most admires, among other topics.
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Expectations are high this season, as always. Do you set specific goals?
I just want to keep what we had going last year. Keep it going. We finished the year off with an eight-sack game against USC in the Cotton Bowl, so just continue the culture that we set so far and the one that my brother and others set for us -- Sam (Hubbard), Ty (Lewis), Jalyn (Holmes), all those guys. We want to do what Coach J [Johnson] preaches and just keep that going, and enhance it.
Tyquan and Sam were different players...
Yeah, very different.
... But very dedicated guys and very good players. What did you learn from each of them?
From Sam, he's got great technique, obviously, but what jumps out with him is the fact that he never stops going hard, no matter if something hurts or it's a 20-period practice. He was always at the front of the line, never with his hands on his knees. So that was a great example. And whenever you'd be confused about something, he'd help you out. With Ty, he's a grinder. He was around for five years so he' picked up a lot of knowledge from the coaches. Great technique, knowledge of the game, knowing how to play mind games with offensive linemen, not just go out and rush. He's helped me a lot with that.
You started several games last year but some you did not. Just the competitor in you and the way you were brought up in this game, was that something you had to wrestle with? Did that ever bug you?
Yeah. I hated not being out there for the first play of the game, but it is what it is and I got to play a lot of meaningful reps. I played all the plays I needed to prove myself and to help my team. In the end, I knew what Coach J was doing. He's always right. He's got a lot of knowledge, so you trust his decisions.
We heard a lot, too, about you guys being fresh in the fourth quarter. Did you feel that way?
I did feel that way, and when you look back at it you realize exactly what he was doing.
So your brother, obviously, was ready to go to the NFL, probably after two years. He comes back for a third year, and he's getting double-teamed, he's getting triple-teamed. Has he given you advice on that, how to deal with that?
Yeah, it's nothing to dread. I'm ready to go. I'm excited about my junior year. Me and Dre'Mont [Jones] and Coop [Jonathon Cooper] and Davon [Hamilton], we're ready for it to be our year. We've been sitting behind older guys during our careers. We've learned a lot and we're ready to showcase it. I'm really excited. I know Joey dealt with some serious triple-teams, but with the guys that I have on my D-line right now, I don't think they'll be able to do that -- and if they do, they'll pay for it.
You were out here for interviews one day and kind of slipped and said it was going to be your last year. Is it going to be your last year? Is that cast in stone?
No, it's definitely not cast in stone. I'm just going to play this year and see what happens.
People have said you're a clone of your brother. I imagine you take that as a compliment, but there might be a part of you that's a little bothered that you're constantly compared to him.
I've never been bothered by being compared. That's obviously going to happen when you have two similar-looking people who have similar games and similar moves and play the exact same position. But I just come out and do my thing and strive to be better than him.
So it doesn't bug you?
No. It never bugs me.
What about the backflips?
That's Joey's thing (laughing). I don't go backwards like that.
Clearly, you love to play D-end. What is it about that position that is so fun?
It's so fun to rush the passer. I just like being out on the edge and being on an island with a tackle. There's nothing better than putting your hand in the dirt, seeing the quarterback drop back and having that one-on-one with somebody.
What's it feel like when you get a sack? You had 13.5. When you think about all the work and all the weightlifting and conditioning, that's not that many moments like that.
I was just going to say the same thing. All that training, all the things the coaches put us through, it's to be in position to be able to make a play like that. When you come off the edge and win, especially if you hit that ball out of his hands, there's no feeling like it.
OK, going off the board a little a bit. Best high school football: Florida, California or Texas?
Why is that?
Team for team. Occasionally, another state will beat us, but all-around we've got Miami teams, we've got Fort Lauderdale teams, we've got Tampa. Up north, all those good teams. We're the best state. No doubt.
Who's the best offensive lineman you've faced so far?
Probably the best offensive lineman is Isaiah [Prince], who I go against every day. He's the best one overall, and everybody will find that out this year. But on an opposing team, probably ... I don't know. I don't like to give O-linemen credit. The right tackle for USC wasn't bad. The right tackle for Wisconsin was solid. Orlando Brown for Oklahoma was good, but I think their other tackle was even better.
What do you like the most about football?
Just my teammates, honestly. Just having fun with them. It's a friendship group, a brotherhood that you wouldn't have just living a normal life and not playing a sport like this. It's so important to be able to fall back on that when stuff gets tough in life. It's good to have.
What do you like the least?
Getting in the cold tank after practice (laughs). Actually, practice sometimes is not the most fun thing ever. Coming out every day at 6 a.m., putting on a helmet and smashing into people for two-and-a-half hours, it's not real natural. But it's what you need to do. And don't get me wrong, there are parts of it that are fun.
I know you love Ohio Stadium. How about another stadium that you enjoy playing in? Does one stick out?
Wisconsin. What's that one called?
The "Jump Around" thing. And the game that we had there was just so exciting my freshman year. Also, playing in the Dallas Cowboys' stadium. That one is so cool, just looking around and everything is state-of-the-art.
Was there a school that you would have gone to if you hadn't been able to come to Ohio State?
I didn't really seriously consider any of them because Coach J was here. If Coach J wasn't here, I probably would have gone wherever he was at. If he wasn't coaching, I would have had to completely rethink my recruiting. I only visited FSU and Florida. That was it. They were good visits. The people there were great. But it just wasn't for me. There's just nothing like here.
Is there another Big Ten coach that you admire and think, "Maybe I could have played for him?"
[Michigan State's Mark] Dantonio. He's a good dude. That's the only one I can think of.
Do you have a fondest memory of your freshman season?
The last play against Wisconsin, when we rushed the field. And when we beat The Team Up North in overtime. When we rushed the field, it was pretty sick. I got stuck in the middle of the crowd. Me and Jake Hausmann got caught and we just plowed through and got hyped with all the fans. It was awesome.
What about last year?
Indy was a great time. That [Big Ten Championship Game] was just a fun game to play in. We played well. And beating Penn State was huge. Those close, hard-fought games are the best.