Few programs have a lineage of legendary pass rushers quite like Ohio State, and under the tutelage of defensive line coach Larry Johnson, a new name gets added to that list every couple years.
Nick Bosa, Tyquan Lewis, Joey Bosa and Dre’Mont Jones made names for themselves in recent seasons, and Chase Young is doing the same. The 6-foot-5, 265-pound defensive end looks every like the future top-10 2020 NFL Draft pick many people have projected him to be, and he played like it last year, racking up 10.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss.
Young has no disillusions about the amount of talented players who came before him, but that doesn't change how he hopes to be remembered.
“I'd say the best,” Young said when asked where he wants to fit in among Ohio State’s all-time great pass rushers. “I mean, everybody wants to be the best. That's what I strive for every single day, just try to be the best player I can be. And if it's No. 1 or 2 or 3, then it is what it is. But I just know that myself, I try to be the best player I can.”
So, how does somebody trying to become the best pass rusher in Ohio State history define that title?
“If you look at it, it's got to be the numbers,” Young said. “Tackles, sacks, TFLs, things like that. And not even just that. How well do you disrupt offenses every game. Pressures. It doesn't have to be a sack every play, but if you beat your man every time and he's getting the ball out fast, nothing you can do.”
Prior to last season, seven players had racked up double-digit sacks in a season: Mike Vrabel, Vernon Gholston, Joey Bosa, Andy Katzenmoyer, Matt Finkes, Will Smith and Jason Simmons.
Young added himself to the list with a 10.5-sack season, picking up more sacks as a second-year player than John Simon, Darrion Scott, Rodney Bailey, Nick Bosa, Tyquan Lewis, Noah Spence or Eric Kumerow ever accumulated in a single season – and he did so while dealing with a pair of sprained ankles for a month in the middle of the season.
Only one Ohio State player – Mike Vrabel – has ever had double-digit sacks in two seasons. Young has a chance to become the second Buckeye to make that happen.
“This is a huge year for him ... I think he realizes that. He's going to take advantage of it this year.”– Ryan Day on Chase Young in 2019
Though he had more sacks than seven players in program history as a sophomore, he said he’s “not really” satisfied by how he played last season.
“I feel like looking at the film from last year, I can use my hands a lot better,” Young said. “I feel like I can get off the ball better. It's just a lot of stuff where I'm really nit-picky about. And, you know, that's why we've got camp. I'm going to work on the things that I need to work on to become a better player this year.”
Those enhancements also came in the form of physical development. Even when Young first stepped on campus as a freshman, his frame looked like it was filled out enough to pass for an NFL player at a training camp. So while he didn’t have to make massive strides in that area, he says he spent time working on gaining explosiveness in his legs.
Plus, his ankles that bothered him in 2018 are once again healthy.
“They feel real good,” Young said. “I'm not too worried about them. I still do a little rehab every day just to keep them up to beat. But they feel real good.”
A pair of healthy ankles should help him get upfield faster with more consistency. As Young said, Ohio State still plans to slant and move horizontally at times on the line, but this fall, he expects the line to have more opportunities to get upfield.
Young will attack those pass-rushing opportunities with a different attitude, too, Day said.
“He's a very likeable young man,” Day said. “The guys like him. He has a happy-go-lucky personality. I see more seriousness now. I think he knows this is his time to step up and be a leader. Time goes fast. Talked to the freshmen about that the other day. Seniors always say, Man, this went fast. I'm just telling you, it's going to go fast. I think he understands that.”
Young, of course, isn’t a senior. But he might as well be treated as one.
When asked was prepared to say anything about leaving for the NFL after his junior season, Young only used one word: “Nah.” But everybody already knows the answer. He’ll leave to become a professional after the 2019 season, and him announcing that is only a formality that likely won’t come until Ohio State has completed every game.
So in order to become the best pass rusher in Ohio State history, Young has one more year to cement his legacy.
“This is a huge year for him,” Day said. “Every team that comes together, you only get one year as that team together, then things change. People go on to the NFL, people graduate, coaches leave, whatever. This is our one chance in this year to go be special. I think he realizes that. He's going to take advantage of it this year.”