Notebook: Notre Dame offensive line knows where Joey Bosa goes

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

GLENDALE, Ariz. – … And everywhere that Joey goes, the Irish are sure to follow.

At least, they better, if they intend to make any headway against the Ohio State defense.

Every time Notre Dame is poised to snap the football in Friday’s Fiesta Bowl game against Ohio State, the Irish offensive line will have to keep track of Joey Bosa.

He’s that good. And disruptive.

“We use the term defensively about offensive players – game-wrecker; he’s a game-wrecker on the defensive side of the ball,” Irish associate head coach Mike Denbrock said about Bosa Monday. “He’s an incredible talent – both defending the run and rushing the passer. Great with his hands; tremendous leverage; plays with a motor that just doesn’t shut off.

“You start, with any plan you put together, to find ways to affect him.”

Problem is, it’s important to find him first.

Finding a way to neutralize the Buckeyes’ 6-foot-6, 275-pound high-impact junior defensive end will be Job One for the Notre Dame offensive line. Since Ohio State’s top two defensive linemen Adolphus Washington (suspension) and Tommy Schutt (foot injury) won’t be available, Bosa is expected to be moved inside and outside, depending on the situation.

“Pass rushing isn’t too crazy different (between inside and outside),” Bosa said Monday during Ohio State’s media session. “You get to work more of the edges outside. The real difficulty is taking on the double-team (inside). It’s not something you can learn in a couple weeks.

“If I can get a good step off the ball first (there will be an advantage inside against a guard). Most (defensive tackles) and nose guards are 300-plus pounds, there’s definitely an advantage on the pass, but on the runs …”

Bosa gained national acclaim last season when he had 13.5 sacks (21 tackles for loss) in the Buckeyes’ run to the national title. This year, the attention has cut down the numbers (16 tackles for loss, 5 sacks), but the respect hasn’t diminished.

“Every year is pretty stressful,” Bosa said. “There’s so much attention, there’s so much pressure for repeating (as national champion). I’ve gotta have 10 sacks a game or I (stink).

“A lot of good comes (with a season), but a lot of stress comes with it. It’s something I have to deal with. I’m not complaining. If anything is worth anything …”

“Joey Bosa's as good of a player as we've seen all year,” said Irish offensive coordinator Mike Sanford. “There's no doubt about that. The thing we all respect so much about him is his second effort, third effort plays he makes. It's a big emphasis for us. We've got to out-effort their front and out-effort their back end because they don't stay blocked. These guys don't stay blocked and we've got to sustain our blocks and it's been a big point of emphasis for us over the last month.”

Will he leave?

If Notre Dame junior receiver Will Fuller planned on coming back for his senior season, he had every opportunity to make that announcement Monday.

When he deferred to talk about the NFL Draft feedback he has gotten until after Friday’s game, it could cause Irish fans to read between the lines.

Bosa is in the same boat, though it would be a shock if he and Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith – expected to be two of the top defenders selected – decided to come back.

Avoiding distractions

While the coaching carousel has been swirling over the past month, Sanford’s name is one that is routinely mentioned. The 33-year-old rising star has had to stay focused while the noise has surrounded him – and the Irish program.

“There's always going to be rumblings and stuff out there,” Sanford said. “Honestly, I go back to the fact that this is a people business, it's about families. It's not just about coaches and getting their name recognition out there.

“My family is extremely happy to be in the South Bend area, to live there. It's the kind of place that our family would love to be at, hopefully, for a while.

“It's been a wild last 11 years. My wife will tell me, basically seven moves or something along those lines. It hasn't always been by choice. A lot of the decisions were no-brainers.

“Right now, what better place to be a part of than Notre Dame football, to continue to learn from right now the active win leader in all of college football (Brian Kelly, at 216, is the leader now that Frank Beamer retired from Virginia Tech)?”

Notre Dame offensive linemen Nick Martin and Ronnie Stanley speak to reporters during a Fiesta Bowl press conference on Monday, Dec. 28, 2015, in Phoenix, Ariz. (SBT Photo/Robert Franklin)