Ohio State’s recruiting class of 2017 is entering a pivotal season.
Those Buckeyes are entering their third season in Columbus, which means they’re certainly expected to be ready to play significant roles for Ohio State if they haven’t already. Each of them now have two years as Ohio State players under their belts, and by the end of the upcoming season, all of them will be on the back end of their careers while some of them will have decisions to make about whether it’s time to go to the NFL.
Given that, Eleven Warriors will be individually highlighting each of Ohio State’s third-year players – some of who are now classified as true juniors while others are redshirt sophomores – in a new offseason series, Third-Year Reset, taking a look back at the expectations that preceded their Ohio State careers and how they have performed in their first two seasons as Buckeyes before looking ahead at the outlook for the remainder of their careers.
Among the 21 scholarship players who joined Ohio State in 2017, all but three of them are still on the roster. Trevon Grimes transferred to Florida after spending just part of a season at Ohio State, Tate Martell transferred to Miami this offseason and Kendall Sheffield, who came to Ohio State from the junior college ranks, entered the 2019 NFL draft (and was selected in the fourth round by the Atlanta Falcons) with one remaining season of eligibility.
For the 18 third-year scholarship players that are still playing for Ohio State, we’ll take a look at each of them in descending order of their 247Sports composite recruiting rankings.
That means we start with Chase Young, who came to Ohio State as the most highly touted prospect in the class of 2017 and still holds that position entering his third season as a Buckeye, which will likely also be his final season as a Buckeye.
Before He Became a Buckeye
Young’s potential to be a football superstar was apparent before he even stepped foot on Ohio State’s campus. At DeMatha Catholic in Hyattsville, Maryland, Young blossomed into one of the best high school football players in the country. As a high school senior, Young posted eye-popping numbers – 118 tackles, 37 tackles for loss, 19 sacks and five fumbles – and led DeMatha to a Maryland high school state championship.
The 6-foot-5, 251-pound edge defender was ranked as the class of 2017’s No. 7 overall prospect and No. 2 overall defensive end (behind only UCLA signee Jaelan Phillips, the No. 1 overall prospect in the class), and ranks as Ohio State’s 10th-highest rated high school recruit among all classes dating back to 2000.
Career to Date
With future NFL draft picks Nick Bosa, Tyquan Lewis, Sam Hubbard and Jalyn Holmes all on the defensive end depth chart when he arrived, Young only saw limited – but still significant – playing time as a true freshman in 2017.
For the season as a whole, Young appeared in 12 of Ohio State’s 14 games and played 196 total snaps, third among all true freshmen (behind only J.K. Dobbins and Jeffrey Okudah). Young flashed his star potential when he did get on the field, recording 19 total tackles with six tackles for loss, including 3.5 sacks, and a forced fumble.
Young entered his sophomore season as the third man in Ohio State’s defensive end rotation, behind Bosa and Jonathon Cooper, but became a near-constant presence on the field after Bosa went down with a season-ending injury in the third game against TCU. He played at least 55 snaps in each of the Buckeyes’ final 10 games of last season, all the while battling through ankle injuries, and recorded 34 total tackles with 15.5 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, five pass breakups and two forced fumbles.
Most memorably, Young made the game-sealing tackle for loss against Penn State running back Miles Sanders on 4th-and-5 late in the fourth quarter of the Buckeyes’ thrilling comeback win over the Nittany Lions in Happy Valley.
The early end of Bosa’s career opened the door for Young to emerge as Ohio State’s marquee pass-rusher last season, and he stepped up to the plate, earned second-team All-Big Ten honors in his first season as a starter.
Young hasn’t quite yet become the consistent dominant force that Joey and Nick Bosa – who both earned All-American honors in their second seasons as Buckeyes – were as Ohio State defensive ends. But he certainly still has the potential to reach that level.
Now listed at 6-foot-5 and 265 pounds, Young – nicknamed “The Predator” – is even more athletically gifted than the Bosas were, but he hasn’t yet achieved the level of technical mastery that allowed Joey and Nick to repeatedly win their battles as both pass-rushers and run defenders. Another year of tutelage from defensive line coach Larry Johnson, however, could be what Young needs to play with the consistent technique and discipline that allows him to maximize his physical tools and play up to his elite potential.
“When you get to the level he’s at, he’s got to be a really great technician,” Johnson said this spring. “His skill set, his hands, those are the things that separate you. Those are the things we’re working on. It’s the little things.”
Being forced to fill Bosa’s shoes earlier than expected was a learning experience for Young last season, but he believes he build on that experience to play even better in 2019 if he is able to take what Johnson is teaching him and put it on the field in game action.
“Last year, I had a pretty good season, but I think I can have a better season,” Young said. “I just got to refine my technique, try to be the best player I can be and just try to get my teammates, the whole D-line, just to rise with me.”
Young will enter the season as one of the most hyped defensive players in the entire country, and with Bosa and Dre’Mont Jones both now playing in the NFL, he is expected to be the star of Ohio State’s defensive line. That likely means more double teams coming his way, which could be an obstacle to putting up huge numbers, but there’s still plenty of talent around him on the Buckeyes’ defensive front to keep opposing offensive lines from keying in on him too much.
Regardless of whether he’s making big plays himself or drawing multiple blockers to free up his teammates to make plays, Young should have a major impact on every game he plays in this season and influence opponents’ game plans every week.
At this time next year, we’ll most likely be talking about how Young performed in rookie minicamp for whatever team selected him in the first round of the 2020 NFL draft.
Young hasn’t commented publicly on whether he plans to leave early for the NFL, but there’s always been an expectation that he would only have a three-year stay at Ohio State. He has all the physical traits that NFL scouts look for in an edge defender, and if he plays up to his potential, he’ll be regarded as one of the top prospects eligible for next year’s draft – making it possible that he, like both Bosas, could be the first non-quarterback selected and a top-five overall pick in whichever draft he enters.
It isn’t difficult to envision Young becoming a star NFL pass-rusher, and if early 2020 mock drafts are any indication, his decision on whether to go pro after this season could be a no-brainer.
Young’s legacy at Ohio State, therefore, will likely be determined by how he plays this season – and the Buckeyes and their fans should enjoy him watching him don the scarlet and gray while they still can.