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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Even with his new haircut, it's not hard to spot Joey Bosa on Ohio State's campus.
At 6'6" and 275 pounds, the Buckeyes star defensive end is much larger than most college students. But it's not just Bosa's size and celebrity status that has gotten him recognized around campus lately, as classmates have been treated to a firsthand look at some of his newest pass-rushing moves for the 2015 season.
"It will be random, out at night, and there will be two people walking in a row and I'll flip on one and flip on the other," Bosa said as he mimicked the motion of a defensive lineman's swim move. "[They're] probably a little scared or shocked."
The Fort Lauderdale, Florida, native said he's constantly been working on his repertoire of moves since the 2014 season came to a close, whether it's been refining old ones or thinking of new ones. "It's pretty much in your mind, 24/7, so you're pretty much always working on it," Bosa said.
It's hard to imagine Bosa would even have much to work on after a 2014 campaign that saw him named a unanimous All-American in what was just his sophomore season. In 15 games, the Sunshine State product tallied 55 tackles, 21 of which came for a loss, and 13.5 sacks, and he was responsible for perhaps the most memorable play during Ohio State's run to the national title.
Yet despite his ability to control a game from the defensive end position in just the second year of his college career, Bosa insists that he has plenty of improving to do.
So much so, in fact, that when asked what he's been working on this spring, Bosa declined to name a single element of his game. Rather, the reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year said that he's been working to improve on everything in his skill set, despite seeing just limited reps for precautionary purposes this spring.
"I can't really pick one spot in my game that I can get better at because I think I can improve at every part of my game," he said. "That's the plan—not just getting better at one thing but improving in every aspect of my game."
And while Bosa may be right, it's hard to imagine a player getting much better when he would likely be a high first-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft if he were draft eligible. Instead, Bosa will have to wait until next year's annual selection show, where he's already in the running to be the first player selected.
WalterFootball.com currently projects Bosa to be the No. 1 pick in next year's draft, while CBSSports.com lists him as the No. 1 overall defensive end in the 2017 class. That's because as a junior, he could always opt to return to Ohio State for a fourth and final season in 2016, although with the hype he's already receiving, that's highly unlikely.
Bosa's even admitted that he's aware of the draft-related expectations that are following him into the upcoming season. But rather than letting them become a distraction like Jadeveon Clowney did in 2013, he's attempting to use it as motivation to live up to the hype.
"I'm not really thinking about it much," Bosa insisted. "I have my goals set just to get better."
Buckeyes defensive line coach Larry Johnson concurred.
"It will not happen," Johnson said of the possibility of Bosa taking plays off to guard against injury and protect his draft stock. "Because he wants to be great. Great players do not shut down. Great players go forward and that's what we hope Joey will do."
Judging by his impromptu on-campus pass-rush practice, that's the path Bosa appears to have chosen. Johnson said he's even been used as a prop by his star player in such drills around the halls of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center as Bosa prepares for his highly touted junior season.
"We can't write the story now. We'll write the story at the end of the season," Johnson said. "He has a chance to be a really special player."
With all he's already accomplished in the first two years of his college career, one could argue he already is.
But the idea of Bosa being even better than he was a year ago? That might be even scarier than being the target of one of his random pass-rush sessions.
Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of CFBStats.com. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Not every spring practice is perfect, and that certainly extends to a Tennessee football team that has had a near-month of praise-filled drills despite being extremely short-handed thanks to injuries.
But a week after the refrain was refreshing around the Vols' progress, Saturday brought a particularly perturbed coach Butch Jones after a subpar practice.
Though much of spring has centered around the emergence of some fresh faces (such as Alvin Kamara and Shy Tuttle) and the development of quarterback Joshua Dobbs, some little-used contributors have begun to take serious strides toward helping the Vols in 2015.
Last week, Jones praised defensive backs Rashaan Gaulden and Evan Berry. This week, two more had done enough to get public recognition.
All that and more will be discussed in this week's stock report.
All the hurt players have seriously hindered UT's ability to participate in game-like situations this spring, but that hadn't damped the team's ability to install much of the concepts from new offensive coordinator Mike DeBord or turn up the tempo.
"We're pushing tempo, and people know the plays like the back of their hand and more than they did last year, so we're able to go faster and do things on offense," Dobbs told B/R last week. "We're installing various concepts and stuff, so we're definitely growing as an offense and growing the arsenal we have.
"Tempo, that's something that's always been a part of our offense. We're picking that even more this offseason."
What a difference in tone a week makes.
With Kamara missing his third consecutive practice with a thigh bruise and other offensive weapons missing, the Vols failed to please their coach on Saturday.
In situational work and under difficult circumstances that any team will face during the course of its season, they struggled to perform.
"I did not like our offense's approach," Jones told the Chattanooga Times Free-Press' Patrick Brown. "I thought we were stale. I thought we had no mental effort. I thought we had no intensity about ourselves, and I think it showed.
"We started off putting them in some demanding situations."
UT didn't fare very well in those, reportedly. But the injuries can't be discounted. With Jalen Hurd limited this spring, Kamara and Dobbs generated the most positive publicity among offensive players. With Kamara out, the offense sputtered.
The Vols miss the running backs a lot when they aren't out there, but Jones indicated Kamara's injury isn't anything to worry about.
Despite his general unhappiness with the way the Vols handled every situation, Jones noted the practice was productive because of the varying situations in which his team gained experience.
Even so, Dobbs wasn't real chipper when asked about the general sloppiness of the passing game or about drops, according to GoVols247's Wes Rucker. It has been a long spring with injuries and trying to push through short-handed, and maybe it got to him a little after a less-than-stellar day.
Defensive Duo Making a Move
Injuries have equaled opportunities this spring, and it isn't just newcomers taking advantage.
Most of the excitement entering the spring centered around redshirt freshman Dillon Bates moving to middle linebacker to perhaps seize a wide-open spot and solidify that position for the next few years.
Gavin Bryant was another redshirt freshman everybody wanted to see, and while true freshman Darrin Kirkland Jr. is out with an injury, he is expected to have a say-so in that race before the season starts.
Bates isn't yet healthy, however, and he has yet to wrestle the job away from redshirt junior Kenny Bynum, who started in the place of Jakob Johnson in the TaxSlayer Bowl and hasn't relinquished the job yet.
The 6'1", 243-pound linebacker isn't anywhere near the most athletic of the bunch, but Jones said, via Volquest's Twitter account, that his knowledge of the defense and ability to get everybody lined up are major assets in his attempt to win the job.
Another player who's a bit of a forgotten man in the defensive tackle battle is Kendal Vickers.
The 6'3", 288-pound former defensive end has worked on his body all offseason to take advantage of a wide-open opportunity to help inside, and he continues to make good on a storybook career.
Vickers was an extremely late addition to Jones' first recruiting class at Tennessee as a lightly recruited defensive end out of Havelock, North Carolina.
Though UT wound up getting a higher-ranked prospect from the same school in Derrell Scott last year, the running back already has transferred while Vickers stuck around.
He may be rewarded with playing time.
With Danny O'Brien missing the spring, Vickers has joined Tuttle as players who are turning heads on the interior. Jones told GoVols247's Ryan Callahan that Vickers' success stems from a technical improvement— he's using his hands more:
And he's starting to really use his athletic ability, and he's very explosive. That shows in the weight room. But now it's transferring the weight room onto the football field, and he's been able to do that. Now you're starting to see the volume of repetitions really starting to improve his play.
He's very prideful, but I can see his first step off the football. He's playing with much more explosiveness. He's playing with much more confidence, and he’s using his hands and his technique better.
Shoring up the middle of its defense is the biggest question mark on that side of the ball for Tennessee. Everybody may be talking about elite recruits such as Kirkland and Kahlil McKenzie, but it never hurts to have players improving who have been in the defense for a number of years.
Bynum is going into his fourth season at UT, and Vickers is entering his third. Getting them to consistently play well is huge for coordinator John Jancek's defense.
Mixed Bag for Blair
One of the brightest spotlights the past two seasons on any player has stayed firmly on former 4-star JUCO offensive tackle Dontavius Blair.
At 6'8", 300 pounds, he certainly looks the part. But after a redshirt season a year ago, he still hasn't cracked the starting rotation. Knoxville native Brett Kendrick has enjoyed a stout spring at right tackle, and when Coleman Thomas returns from his suspension, he should be in the mix for snaps, too.
Then this summer, instate recruiting star Drew Richmond gets to campus, and he will battle for the job, too.
But everybody's wondering about Blair, and whether he'll ever really be able to help the Vols.
Offensive line coach Don Mahoney told GoVols247's Callahan this week that Blair must be more consistent:
I told him the thing he needs to focus on is just working to get better each and every day, and he's got to be a guy that is providing us valuable play. He's more focused right now than he's been because of the hype and all that, that came into this thing.
Now it’s just a matter of staying focused. Eliminate the clutter and focus on what you need to. He's not as consistent as he needs to (be). That's the thing that's frustrating both he and I right now that has got to improve.
He's one that he's got to be technically and fundamentally (sound) and fanatical with the way he plays, and it's not as consistent as it needs to be right now, so that’s what we’re working toward.
Rocky Top Roundup
- One of the biggest objects of obsession for UT fans is Hurd, so when it was reported that the rising sophomore running back who's been limited this spring is between 235-240 pounds and hasn't lost a step, it was big news.
- Spring practice is serious business, but that doesn't mean there can't be a little good-natured ribbing, especially between coaches. So, it was an extremely popular retweet this week when UT tight ends/special teams coach Mark Elder tweeted a video that showed offensive line coach Mahoney falling to the ground with an apparent calf cramp.
- After missing all of last season, UT receiver Cody Blanc suffered another setback this spring. He will miss the remainder of drills after breaking ribs, according to Jones.
- Former Vols coach Johnny Majors offered a couple of hilarious soundbites on Saturday directed at the media.
All statistics gathered from UTSports.com unless otherwise noted. Quotes and observations obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted.
Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Shepard.
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