Many of the players on Ohio State who will be playing in the Discover Orange Bowl on Friday hail from parts far from South Florida.
For some, they’re seeing a beach for the first time in their lives and have had to acclimate themselves to the South Florida heat during the past week — where there have been temperatures that Columbus, Ohio, hasn’t seen since summer — and even the signature rain showers, like at Wednesday’s practice.
But there are two Buckeyes who are used to all of that — Ryan Shazier and Joey Bosa.
Shazier played his high school football at Plantation High School and is a first-team All-American as an outside linebacker. Bosa was at Fort Lauderadle St. Thomas Aquinas just last year and is starting at defensive end for the Buckeyes as a freshman.
The two are excited to come home and host their teammates for the big game.
“How many teams get to say that they played in an Orange Bowl or BCS game? And we have an opportunity,” Shazier said. “Especially in this atmosphere. For me, it’s home, but for some guys who have never been to Miami or may never come back, this is going to be the best experience they ever have.”
Bosa said he is going to have “a bunch” of family and friends at Sun Life Stadium on Friday.
Shazier said he will have so many fans there he can’t even say the number.
Shazier leads Ohio State and is tied for sixth nationally with 134 tackles. He has registered 22 1/2 tackles for loss, six sacks and four forced fumbles. It’s his second season in a row with 100-plus tackles, 17-plus tackles for loss and five sacks.
Although he went away for college, Shazier is a South Florida guy through and through. He maintains his loyalty to his hometown team, wearing a Dolphins wristband to practice.
He has no regrets about leaving home for Columbus, though.
“I definitely feel like it was the best decision I ever made,” Shazier said. “Sometimes you wish you were home because of the weather or it’s just so far from home. But I definitely feel like that was the best decision for me and am happy with my decision.”
Shazier wraps up his junior season with Friday’s Orange Bowl, meaning he will be eligible to enter the NFL Draft if he opts to forgo his senior season.
He recently said he received a second-round grade from the NFL Draft advisory board and remains undecided.
Although just a freshman, it’s already apparent Bosa is well on his way to the NFL, too.
Hall of Fame wide receiver Cris Carter, who coached Bosa as an assistant at St. Thomas Aquinas and attended his alma mater’s practice Wednesday, seems to think so.
“Joey Bosa will be a pro. Am I shocked? No, by no stretch of the imagination,” said Carter, who said he has seen him play since Bosa was a fifth-grader.
Even though he has received instant playing time, Bosa did not click right away when he first arrived at Ohio State.
“My attitude wasn’t the best, and [defensive line coach Mike] Vrabel got me straight pretty quick, and I just learned how to work hard,” Bosa says. “That was the biggest thing to do, just go as hard as I can.”
He bounced back and said the first game where he began to feel like he was coming into his own and feeling comfortable came against Northwestern on Oct. 5. In that game, he had a fumble recovery in the end zone for a touchdown.
Bosa’s pass-rushing impact on Friday’s Orange Bowl will go a long way in determining Ohio State’s success on defense, especially with the announcement Wednesday that defensive end Noah Spence will not play because of a three-game suspension for violation of an undisclosed Big Ten rule.
The announcement comes after Spence did not accompany the Buckeyes on their flight to South Florida on Sunday. Coach Urban Meyer cited a “personal issue” then.
Spence led the Buckeyes with eight sacks this season en route to All-Big Ten honors.