COLUMBUS — Ohio State defensive end Jalyn Holmes says he knows who he is and what kind of football player he is.
But OSU fans, and more importantly the Buckeyes’ coaches, are still in the process of defining who he is as a football player.
The former 4-star recruit from Norfolk, Va., knows there is a reason for that. His abilities have been on display only in short bursts in his first two seasons in Columbus.
“I showed people I can play. But not for long,” Holmes said. “This year I feel like I can show people I’m established.”
He had 13 tackles and one sack in 11 games last season as the fourth man in a four-man rotation at defensive end with Joey Bosa, Tyquan Lewis and Sam Hubbard. He had 11 tackles in nine games as a freshman.
“You get a lot of doubters but I feel like this is the year everybody could get to know me,” he said.
Lewis, who had a breakout season with eight sacks a year ago, will be the starter at one defensive end position after he recovers from off-season surgery. Hubbard, who had 5 ½ sacks last season, will start at the other end.
Holmes — one of many OSU players trying to make a good impression this spring with 16 starting positions open — might be the first player to rotate in at either end.
“I know who I am. Sam knows who he is. Tyquan knows who he is. I feel like we can show the world who we really are,” Holmes said.
One person they’re not is Joey Bosa, expected to be a high first-round pick in the NFL draft.
Holmes has heard that name once or twice or maybe a couple thousand times since the end of last season.
“I get that so much — on campus, at home, everybody,” Holmes said about fielding questions about how to replace Bosa.
“You can’t really replace him. I’m Jalyn. Sam is Sam. Tyquan knows who he is. We just have to go hard every day. We’re going to make a name for ourselves and fill our own shoes,” he said.
He could find himself playing behind another Bosa, though, when freshman Nick Bosa, the younger brother of Joey arrives for fall practice.
The 5-star defensive lineman had surgery for a torn ACL late in his senior season but is reportedly ahead of schedule in rehabbing the injury.
The younger Bosa is listed as a defensive end but Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson said he could also play defensive tackle, depending on where he is needed most.
“He can do both, so we’re going to see where the best fit is for him. We’ll put the best 11 guys on the field and if he’s part of that best 11, we’re going to go for it,” Johnson said.
Whether a player with two or three years at OSU has a breakout year or Bosa is the immediate star everyone predicts him to be, Johnson is confident they will do the job they’re asked to do and not try to live up to the standard set by Joey Bosa.
“My philosophy is you don’t try to replace them. If you can find a guy to raise his game to the next level, get a guy to raise the bar a little bit, you’re good,” he said. “I think the talent is there, they want to be really good. As a coach I’m trying to get them to raise their game.”
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.