Chase Young has the potential to be the best defender in the country this fall.
He wasn't in the spotlight at this point last year. Going into 2018, Young was the pass-rushing complement to superstar Nick Bosa, who was widely regarded as college football's most talented player.
Through two-and-a-half games, Bosa and Young couldn't be blocked. As the linebackers and secondary behind them self-destructed, the defensive end tandem created almost laughable pressure on opposing offenses.
Everything changed in the third quarter of Ohio State's Week 3 matchup with TCU. Bosa went down with what turned out to be a season-ending core muscle injury, and Young was thrust into a primary role in a defense that was collapsing in on itself.
He still thrived, though, leading the Big Ten with 11 sacks even though teams started gearing their protections toward him.
Now entering his junior (and likely final) season at Ohio State, Young reflected on his breakout sophomore campaign and what he expects this fall.
"I worked my butt off in the offseason and it paid off," Young said, according to Dave Biddle of Bucknuts. "I wanted to be a guy that could go out there and consistently beat one-on-ones and disrupt what the offense was trying to do, even if I didn't get a sack or whatever. And I feel I was able to do that for most of the year.
"Now, I need to build on that going into next year. Be a guy who not only beats one-on-ones, but can beat double teams or whatever they throw at me."
If Young is consistently taking on double teams, that should open things up for the opposite defensive end. And that's where the opportunity lies for new defensive coordinator Greg Mattison as he works to overhaul a beleaguered unit.
Ohio State has options.
Senior Jonathon Cooper is a former 4-star who's trying to reach his potential in his final season. He was a heavy part of the rotation last year and registered 6.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.
One player Young is excited about is Tyreke Smith, a sophomore backup who's had a solid offseason. He's hoping Smith can have a similar breakout season as he and Bosa had in their second year with the program.
“Every great defensive end had that sophomore year," Young said of Smith this spring. "Tyreke Smith can have that year. I would say watch out for Tyreke Smith.”
There are more options. Tyler Friday was another highly rated 4-star prospect who's looking to make that second-year impact. But the most intriguing option lies with Zach Harrison, the 5-star stud who committed to Ohio State end enrolled early to take part in winter condition and spring practice this year.
Defensive line coach Larry Johnson knows he has a challenge in getting Harrison ready to play right out of the gate, but the true freshman made huge strides this spring.
"We're pushing [Harrison]. What we're really trying to make sure is his technique is really sound before we can push him more," Johnson said. "Once he masters the technique, how to play fast, everything is (there). He's got the talent. Now it's just learning how to play faster."
He ended spring camp with a bang, losing his black stripe to officially become a member of the team. With that out of the way, Harrison could be in line for a major role in this year's defense.
Whether it's Cooper, Smith, Friday or Harrison, if Mattison can get a consistent pass-rushing threat from one (or a combination) of them, then Ohio State's rebuild on defense will be well ahead of schedule in 2019.