It was nearly one year ago that four-star defensive end Joshua Mickens committed to LSU. The top 2023 prospect in the state of Indiana nearly followed Brian Kelly from Notre Dame to the Bayou. Then came an offer from Ohio State early last November. A few weeks later, he decommitted from LSU. Then a few weeks after that he committed to the Buckeyes and defensive line coach Larry Johnson.
Mickens (6-5 225) was the No. 17 edge player in the 2023 class and the No. 119 prospect overall. In his final two seasons at Lawrence Central High School in Indianapolis, Mickens posted 144 tackles, 43.5 tackles for loss, and 18.5 sacks.
What To Like
Joshua Mickens has a prototype frame for a 4-3 defensive end. He’s tall, long, and will be able to carry more weight as he gets stronger and older.
For his Lawrence Central team, he played all over the defensive line, which has pitted him against every type of offensive lineman. He does not stay blocked for long. Mickens also has the speed to make the play when offenses try to leave him unblocked as a backside defender.
The speed is pretty obvious. Mickens is an explosive defensive end who gets out of his stance quickly and with balance. He also seems to possess a very solid understanding of the offense he is facing because there are times he will either blow up a play, or he’ll be in position for it to come back to him.
Every defensive end is going to be measured by how often they sack the quarterback. Joshua Mickens already has a plethora of pass-rushing moves, including the increasingly popular spin move.
There were times when opposing offensive tackles were almost better off guessing what Mickens was going to do because their reaction times weren’t quick enough to keep up with him at the snap.
Mickens length and pursuit allow him to cover a ton of ground in a short amount of time. His ability to chase down the quarterback is a coveted trait, and his athleticism allows him to adjust seamlessly while running. He just keeps chasing the ball.
Sacking the quarterback is always a premium requirement, but the lesser-thought-of ability to stop the run is something that the great Ohio State defensive ends all possessed.
Guys like Sam Hubbard, Chase Young, pick-your-Bosa, and even Zach Harrison, could disrupt a running game through power, quickness, and sheer will. Those defensive ends — possibly including Joshua Mickens — were also able to cover both the quarterback and running back when it came to the read option.
There were times when there were no good decisions for the quarterbacks. Mickens has that kind of quickness and reach to cover both of his bases. He is a solid run defender because he is comfortable battling with bigger offensive linemen, and he refuses to stay blocked.
The Bottom Line
Joshua Mickens is an intelligent defender who isn’t just an athlete who is bigger, stronger, and faster than everybody. Yes, he is those things most of the time, but he also uses play recognition to his advantage.
The pass rushing and run stopping is easy to see, but Mickens stays under control because he is able to recognize screens and understand when to get his hands up against a quarterback that he knows he’s not going to get to in time.
Even though there are times he looks like he’s on skates, he isn’t out of control. If he’s moving full speed somewhere, it’s because that’s where the play is going.
Mickens will arrive at Ohio State shortly, and when he gets here he will find a defensive end room that is pretty top heavy and does not have a lot of bodies. There will be opportunities to play this season, but the Buckeyes also aren’t so short-handed that they can’t redshirt a freshman defensive end.
He could also be a candidate for the hybrid Jack position. Mickens is very good at jamming the offensive line at the snap and causing problems. The Jack position has just two names on the depth chart at the moment. Perhaps Mickens could be a third.
Previous Closer Look editions
Wide Receiver Brandon Inniss | Tight End Jelani Thurman | Offensive Lineman Vic Cutler | Offensive Lineman Luke Montgomery | Defensive Tackle Kayden McDonald | Cornerback Jermaine Mathews, Jr. | Cornerback Davison Igbinosun | Safety Ja’Had Carter