If you peruse your college football magazines this month, you’ll see a number of Buckeyes populating All-Big Ten and All-America lists. One of the Ohio State players on those lists, however, has yet to even start a game.
Sophomore defensive end Chase Young is listed as a Third-Team All-B1G pick by Athlon and a Second-Team selection by Phil Steele, and he rarely played last year when the game was on the line. Still, in his freshman season, he produced 19 tackles, 6.0 tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks.
His opportunities are going to increase greatly this year, which makes it easy to project accolade-worthy numbers.
But it’s not going to be something that happens simply because of more opportunities. Young will need to capitalize on those chances with an ever-expanding skill set.
That was the goal in the spring for defensive line coach Larry Johnson.
“With young players, you want to make sure they are not growing too fast,” Johnson said. “When you grow too fast, you miss the technique part of it. My job with Chase is make sure as you move forward we can’t use athleticism to win every play. That was the biggest focus going into spring ball is to make sure he has enough tools in his tool belt to use when he faces a really great offensive tackle. That is the biggest challenge for him.”
At 6-foot-5 and 265 pounds, Young has the size and he also possesses the athleticism to give offensive linemen trouble. But simply relying on size and speed isn’t enough. It’s a great starting point, but like a pitcher who never changes the speed of his pitches, eventually batters will catch up.
Could an over-reliance on athleticism cause issues for Young this year?
“Not necessarily issues,” Johnson said. “Our system is about using your tool box, using your skill set. That is what everything is about for a young pass rusher. You have a tendency when you’re successful early to go back to what you did early. Our system is built where if you do these things in your tool box, and use this technique, your success can go even higher. So now it is teaching him how to use his tool box rather than just his athleticism. You can use both, but let’s make sure we use our tool box.”
Two of the prime examples of putting that tool box to good use as a sophomore are Joey and Nick Bosa. Both players went from talented freshmen to All-Americans and Big Ten Defensive Linemen of the Year.
All three players came to the Ohio State football program as 5-star prospects, which is based on athleticism and projections. Once they arrived, however, the process of developing that freshman foundation got under way in earnest. And for good reason.
“Once you get the development, you get the tool box and understand what we do to rush the passer and you get all those things in your tool box, now you can go out and use those things because you feel comfortable using them,” Johnson said.
“Chase is learning as he goes, trying to figure out, ‘What is my go-to move?’ To be able to do that on the spot, that is the progress. Joey, he got it and the next year, it was done. He knew his tool box and what it was, and that’s what makes the difference.”
Does Johnson think Chase Young can make that same kind of step from year one to year two?
“I do. I think he will have an opportunity to do that,” he said. “He played about 20 snaps last year per game. Those snaps will go up obviously and really from now, how he grows – I think the offseason is important for him this summer – how he progresses this summer is going to determine how he does in the fall.”
If Young continues to utilize the tools he is given, what kind of ceiling are we talking about?
“It’s high if he continues to work,” Johnson said. “It’s not going to come easy for him. He has to work at it, and most great players do. They have a tendency to work hard. If he does that, there is no telling where he can be when it’s all said and done.”