Nick Bosa, the possible No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, is leaving Ohio State, an unbeaten national title contender, in the middle of the season. This will surely spur a lot of people to say that Bosa needs to look out for himself because colleges don’t look out for their players, or that Bosa is abandoning his team, or that the best players today just view college football as a short layover on their way to the pros. But I highly doubt you will hear any of that from anybody at Ohio State, and I’m sure you won’t hear it from Nick Bosa.
Nick Bosa is not just our hot-button topic. He is a real person, a college student who absolutely loves—loves—Ohio State football. You will not hear a family praise a pair of coaches more highly than the Bosas praise Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer and defensive line coach Larry Johnson. And yes, his family knew before he even became a full-time starter at Ohio State that he would leave after three years. That’s just because he is so good.
Bosa is leaving for one reason: He felt like he had no choice. His season was over.
In Columbus, there was hope that Bosa could return from his core injury in time for the Michigan game. Within the Bosa family, that hope vanished weeks ago. Bosa had surgery Sept. 20.
“The realistic timeframe is 12 weeks,” his dad, John, told me Tuesday. “Twelve weeks brings us into December.”
Well, you say, the College Football Playoff semifinals are Dec. 29. This is true. But as John Bosa said, “There’s timeframes for injuries, and then timeframes for an elite pass rusher. It’s not about rehabbing so you can be back on the used car lot or be a mechanic. When is he able to be safe and play at the same level? When you look at the preparation he goes through in preseason, that’s not a realistic timeframe for it to be safe. It’s just not.”
Nick Bosa, like his brother Joey, is a reverent student of Johnson, the OSU line coach. Johnson teaches his defensive ends to “flip their hips,” or point them toward the quarterback. The technique is one reason Joey has become an NFL star and Nick probably will be, too. But it makes it risky to play elite college football before this injury fully heals.
“The way he plays the game, the amount of torque and power he creates, when you have any little issue it’s going to be exposed,” John said.
The Bosas know that because of how Nick got in this position in the first place. It has been widely reported that he injured himself against TCU Sept. 15. But he showed signs of trouble before that.
“He clearly played through some pain for the first couple games,” John Bosa said. “He had some slight tears happening in there. He definitely had some discomfort in the left side of his groin. We thought it was something he could play with and manage.”
This was confirmed when he underwent surgery, which revealed tears on both sides. That gives you a sense of the kind of prospect Bosa is: playing through an injury that would ultimately worsen and end his season, he still convinced many analysts he is the best prospect in the country. And since then, the Bosas have come to the realization that the Bosa era at Ohio State is over.
They do not view this as a punch to the mouth of the NCAA, or as a player showing everybody who is in control.
They just think it sucks.
“It’s difficult on him,” John said. “He had set all kinds of team goals. The love he has for his D-line group and D-line coach is something special.”
As for the Ohio State staff, John said, “I’ve trusted them with both my sons and I couldn’t be happier with how they treated him. It was gut-wrenching, but for his health and the future, this is the right thing to do. He’ll have time to focus and be absolutely perfect in March and the [draft] combine.”
Nick Bosa had four sacks in less than three games this season. You can say that NFL scouts have seen enough, and that’s probably true. But his dad would have loved to see more.
“This is really heartbreaking for me,” John Bosa said. “He was going to have an epic, epic year. That kid was on pace for some scary record-setting things. It was the right thing to do, but it doesn’t make it any easier.”