It seemed like Chase Young brought pressure on the quarterback on just about every opportunity he had to rush the passer in Saturday’s spring game.
While Young was only credited with one sack – or what constitutes a sack in a game where defenders are not allowed to tackle the quarterback – in Saturday’s box score, the sophomore defensive end felt like he could have had many more in a real game.
“It’s like you got to slow down, like you don’t want to hit them, because Coach Meyer don’t want you to touch the quarterbacks, they’re so pretty boys,” Young said with a laugh. “But nah, it’s all cool though. All three of them are really good. Obviously I wouldn’t want to get them hurt.”
How many sacks did Young feel like he had in his head?
“Like six or seven,” Young said, smiling before he answered.
Although Young might be doing generous math, no stats were necessary on Saturday to see how talented he is. No matter who Team Gray lined up at left tackle – including Thayer Munford, who got the surprising start at left tackle with Isaiah Prince at right tackle with the first-team offense – Young seemed to have his way with every opponent, using a variety of pass-rush moves to get to the quarterback (or as close as he was allowed to get).
Young is getting tired, though, of beating up on his own teammates. While Ohio State’s first actual game of the season is still more than four months away, Young says he is already preparing for the Buckeyes’ Sept. 1 season opener.
“I’m already looking at film of Oregon State,” Young said. “So I’m definitely ready to go against those tackles.”
After playing only occasionally last season, Young appears to be well on his way to much more playing time in 2018. And he isn’t the only former five-star recruit who could be in for a significantly more substantial role. Another player who fits that category on defense is Justin Hilliard.
With Tuf Borland sidelined by an Achilles injury – the severity of that injury has not been specified, but Borland was seen wearing a walking boot on Saturday – Hilliard started at middle linebacker with the first-team defense for Team Scarlet in the spring game. Hilliard, who battled injuries for his first two years at Ohio State before finally establishing himself on special teams last year as a redshirt sophomore, has had a good enough spring to put himself on track to potentially start at middle linebacker with Borland out. But he’s got competition from another five-star recruit – true sophomore Baron Browning – who drew praise for his performance for Team Gray in Saturday’s game, in which Browning recorded four tackles and two pass breakups, while Hilliard recorded just one tackle.
So while Hilliard seems to be in a better position to see the field in a regular capacity now than he has ever been since arriving at Ohio State, and he is pleased with what he accomplished this spring, he also feels like he still must continue to improve.
“Obviously I have a lot of things to work on,” Hilliard said. “Spring is where we try a bunch of stuff. We get to get a feel for things. I feel like I’m in a good place. I got a lot better this spring for sure.”
Another highly talented player who seems to be on the rise is junior wide receiver Binjimen Victor, who was among the stars of Saturday’s game, catching five passes for 91 yards and a touchdown. Victor feels like he has improved this spring, and he felt like he was able to show it on Saturday.
“I was pretty excited about the way I played today,” Victor said. “I think it was a pretty solid day.”
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, however, said that while Victor is “one of the most talented receivers he has ever had” – a statement he has made previously, too – he also said that Victor, who played longer on Saturday than any of the other receivers who saw regular playing time, must continue to get more consistent.
“I kept him in there because he has to just keep getting better,” Meyer said. “He’s still got a ways to go.”
With players like Young, Hilliard, Browning and Victor making strides this spring, the Buckeyes appear to be as talented as ever heading into the 2018 season, and redshirt sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins – who could be the Buckeyes’ starting quarterback – is among those who are excited about the team they have.
“We’re deep,” Haskins said. “We’re really deep. Especially at the receiver, running back, every position on offense, even on defense; I feel we have a lot of talent.”
Meyer, as he usually does at this point in the year, expressed a little more reservation about his team, acknowledging that the Buckeyes lost a large group of talented players from last season, including several fifth-year seniors who played huge roles like J.T. Barrett, Billy Price, Tyquan Lewis and Chris Worley. But while Meyer says he still has “a lot of questions” about his team at this point, he does believe in its potential.
“I’m pretty pleased with where we’re at, but this is not where we were last year where it was a veteran team,” Meyer said.