Ohio State football: For Joey Bosa, hard work meets opportunity

By The Columbus Dispatch  • 
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EAMON QUEENEY | DISPATCH
Defensive lineman Joey Bosa, who became a regular starter as a freshman, hammers Indiana running back Stephen Houston, one of his five tackles during a 42-14 win on Nov. 23.

Joey Bosa is doing a lot of coming and going this week, but all the while, the Ohio State freshman is riding high.

Named to two freshman All-America teams at defensive end, Bosa flew to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., four days ago to spend Christmas with his family. He is expected back in Columbus today to join the Buckeyes for two more practices before flying back to Fort Lauderdale with the team on Sunday morning to being final preparations for the Orange Bowl on Jan. 3 against Clemson.

“I get a nice little break, I get to spend some time with my family,” Bosa said before the holiday. “Then I’m back up here, then back down for the game. I’m just excited to be home.”

When push came to shove this season, he was up to the task. One of the more celebrated members of the Buckeyes’ 2013 recruiting class, Bosa became the breakout star by seizing on an opportunity.

He gained the starting job on the strong side of the defense in game three at California when sophomore Adolphus Washington was suffering from a groin strain. Washington eventually returned and by the end of the regular season had become a starter — at tackle next to Bosa.

“I had no idea what it was going to be like coming in,” Bosa said. “I didn’t really hold any expectations.”

Bosa wound up third on the team in tackles for loss (12.5) and sacks (6.5), behind linebacker Ryan Shazier (22.5) and Noah Spence (14.5) in tackles for loss, and behind Spence (eight) and defensive tackle Michael Bennett (seven) in sacks.

“I definitely wouldn’t say it came easy,” Bosa said. “In the beginning, I wasn’t really a good player, and it took a lot of hard work and push through a lot of stuff to get where I am.”

Bennett expected as much from Bosa after watching him, pushed by defensive line coach Mike Vrabel, practice a few times before the season.

“He goes hard, and he learns technique quickly,” Bennett said. “And obviously, I think he’s one of more well-developed freshmen I have seen come through here in a while. He came in here at 275 (pounds), just huge, and you don’t see that very often. …The kid grew each week, got better each week. I mean, 13th week of the season, he’s going to be pretty good.”

There was a hump game when Bosa felt he’d earned his spot.

“Probably the Northwestern game, it was the big turning point,” Bosa said. “I had my first sack in that game. I was making some plays. I had a touchdown.”

He had two sacks and, on the game’s last play, pounced on a fumble in the end zone that put a cap on a come-from-behind victory on the road.

It also gave renewed vigor to an Ohio State winning streak that eventually stretched to a school-record 24 games before the Buckeyes lost to Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game. A win likely would have sent them to the national championship game.

“I’m trying to not think about it anymore, pretty much gotten over it,” Bosa said of the loss. “But it was really hard. ... We had the opportunity to go 25-0 and play for the national championship. Obviously, if you lose that opportunity it’s going to make anyone upset.”

The consolation prize, though, isn’t bad for him. Bosa starred for powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, which he helped win a 2012 state championship. Now he’s going to play in the Orange Bowl just a few miles away in Sun Life Stadium.

“Going back home to Miami, it’s going to be fun,” Bosa said, even if it means two personal trips down there inside a week. “It’s a big game. We’re playing a good team.”

tmay@dispatch.com

@TIM_MAYsports

J

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