Virginia Tech's hopes of upsetting defending national champion Ohio State for a second consecutive season might be slim, but they grew a bit stronger Thursday with the news that Buckeyes defensive end Joey Bosa will serve a suspension when the two teams meet in a Sept. 7 season opener.
Arguably the nation's most talented defensive end, Bosa will miss Ohio State's opener against the Hokies along with sophomore H-back Jalin Marshall for violating the department of athletics' policy, the school announced. Senior wide receiver Corey Smith and junior H-back Dontre Wilson will be suspended as well, per Ohio State.
The most devastating loss, however, is Bosa, who compiled 21 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks for the Buckeyes last season.
As for the reasons for the suspensions, Urban Meyer said Thursday at Big Ten Media Days that "It was a violation of team policies. That's as far as we'll go."
Bosa, a junior, could be eligible for the 2016 NFL Draft if he applies for early draft eligibility after this season. Regardless of when Bosa exits the college ranks, the suspension will be something he'll eventually have to explain to NFL clubs in pre-draft interviews at the NFL Scouting Combine and elsewhere.
NFL Media analyst Lance Zierlein regards Bosa among the top prospects to watch in the college game this season.
Meyer indicated the suspensions did not take him by surprise.
"I kind of knew about this for a little bit," he said.
However, he did not downplay the impact the suspensions will have on Ohio State's game against the Hokies.
"Arguably one of the best defensive players in the United States of America won't play in that game," Meyer said. "(At receiver) ... I'm not overly concerned at that spot. Obviously when you lose the big defensive end that everyone knows where he's at, that's a concern."
Virginia Tech upset Ohio State 35-21 last season, but finished with a dismal 6-6 record. The loss to the Hokies threatened to keep the Buckeyes out of the inaugural College Football Playoff until OSU pushed its way into the four-team field on the strength of a 59-0 win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game.
While the loss of Bosa is certainly the most significant of the four, the other three suspensions will leave the Buckeyes with very little receiving experience available against the Hokies. Marshall, Smith and Wilson combined for 79 receptions last year, and their absence could prompt a larger role for Braxton Miller, the two-time Big Ten Player of the Year as a quarterback in 2012-2013. Miller said earlier this month that he will move to the H-back/receiver position for this season.
Meyer noted that if Ohio State's other receivers stay healthy in fall camp and develop as expected, the Buckeyes can still be effective at that position against Virginia Tech.