The non-conference portion of the schedule for the Ohio State football team is done, and after spending a bye week working on improvements following a 45-24 win over the Oklahoma Sooners in Normanon September 17, the Buckeyes are ready to open Big Ten play against Rutgers at Ohio Stadium today.
Although the Buckeyes are loaded with underclassmen stepping into starting roles, coach Urban Meyer is confident in his players as they will play back-to-back Big Ten games at home, against Rutgers and Indiana, before consecutive night contests at Wisconsin and Penn State in mid-October.
“I like our team,” Meyer said.
“We did very well last week. It was hard, the last one I made real hard. It's so early right now and you better worry about the next game, the next practice, the next game, and not worry about anything else. That's my concern is with all the added publicity, press conferences and everybody being told how good they are, I really worry about that.”
Junior defensive lineman Tyquan Lewis is a veteran of several Big Ten games, and knows there is a need for everyone to raise their level of play if they want to make late November games at Michigan State and home against Michigan more meaningful.
“Every game counts in football, but when Big Ten season comes around, you have got to step it up another notch,” Lewis said. “Every win counts moving forward to what we all want to achieve. I feel like every Big Ten team competes, but especially Rutgers. They have a pretty solid offensive line.”
Lewis is one of the few veterans the Buckeyes returned in 2016 after seven starters left, six of them early, to pursue NFL goals. And although Lewis is working alongside younger players, he has seen growth from the likes of Nick Bosa and Jalyn Holmes.
“He’s coming along great, and he is making strides every day,” Lewis said of Bosa. “Someone steps up, then he steps up and he works hard. His work ethic is incredible.
“(Jalyn) gives us an extra advantage in the pass-rushing package. The speed on the inside frightens offensive linemen, and that’s what he brings to the table. He brings another speed guy on the inside.”
And with those younger players stepping up to help against the run and in pass-rush situations, Lewis feels the depth along the defensive front will only benefit the Buckeyes as they get deeper into Big Ten Conference play.
“It’s very beneficial and it keeps a lot of guys fresh,” Lewis said. “Like the Oklahoma game, a lot of guys played fresh. The reps are almost equally spread out, so we can play fast.”