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Larry Johnson on Nick Bosa: His first step is wicked—if you’re not real careful, he’ll go right by you

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Ohio States defensive line coach opens up about his former star player

NFL Draft Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson and San Francisco 49ers first-round pick Nick Bosa established a relationship before the star defensive linemen ever stepped foot on campus. Johnson joined KNBR 680 on Thursday afternoon to talk about everything Bosa related to their relationship, to what Bosa will be able to contribute to the team.

Here’s Johnson on how he and Nick became so tight, and Bosa the person in general:

Freshman year. Well, his senior and junior year in high school. When the recruiting process started. That’s when he got to know each other. As we went through it, we got closer. I think the biggest thing he saw was the transition in Joey, and how he got there. I think that was really intriguing to him. If you could do that for my brother, can you do it for me. We’re just really close as people. Great heart. Great passion for what he believes in. Great passion for the game. It’s really easy to connect with him, because he has a big heart.

Willingness to learn and a passion for the game will ensure Bosa gets to his ceiling. Speaking of, one of the questions that stood out was when Johnson was asked to compare Bosa to some of the other great pass rushers he’s worked with, like a Tamba Hali, or a Courtney Brown:

He’s really high. The thing that he got early rather than Joey getting here early, he got everything that we teach when he was a junior and senior in high school. So he’s working on those skill sets as he’s progressed to where he is today. So he’s so far ahead of the Tamba Hali’s. If he would have stayed healthy through his last season, I don’t know what the numbers would have been, but they would have been phenomenal with what he could have done. I’ve never saw a guy so focused, so direct. Everything you want to have in a player, he had it. He wasn’t afraid to go to another notch, elite-wise. Most elite players get to a level elite-wise, and they stop. I think Nick has a really high ceiling, because he got all this work early.

You could hear it in Johnson’s voice how highly he thinks of Bosa. He seems proud of what Bosa has become, and knows he’s not anywhere close to a finished product. He kept harping on how Bosa could handle a heavy workload and hinting at the fact that might be the reason he becomes a special player at the next level.

Johnson was asked where Bosa needs to improve, and he just started gushing about him instead. Bosa’s 40-yard dash time came up—Bosa ran a 4.79 at the combine—and Johnson defended how Bosa was coming off an injury at that time. He also mentioned how the 10-yard split, 3-cone drill, and short shuttle are what you’re evaluating. All of that is fair and true. Even if you are one of the 12 people that believe Bosa is overrated, his 40 time should be the least of your worries.

Bosa had a faster short shuttle than both Devin Bush and Devin White. He was fifth among all edge rushers at the combine. Only two defensive linemen had faster 3-cone times than Bosa. Just because he didn’t run fast in a straight line doesn’t mean he’s athletic.

Johnson also spoke about how Bosa will fit in the 49ers Wide 9 defense:

I love the idea. He loves that. You have to be careful how wide you play him in getting to the quarterback, and that’s the key. He’s got to do a great job in running the right angle in getting to the quarterback. Sometimes you can be too wide, and you’re running around the quarterback instead of running through the quarterback. We like to say, “take the fight to the guy.” I’m not sure Nick will be taking the fight to the guy in a Wide-9.”

Check out the rest of the interview below where Johnson continues to talk about how Bosa loves people, and much more.