Chase Young was forced to mature quickly as a sophomore last season.
His life in a 3-man rotation at defensive end last year only lasted two and a half games. When Nick Bosa went down, Young had to step up.
He ended up leading the Buckeyes with 15.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks. Young was named a Second-Team All-Big Ten honoree by the conference’s coaches.
While Young may be as naturally talented as any defensive end that Ohio State has ever had, he didn’t truly blossom until he began to rely on the tools he was being taught by defensive line coach Larry Johnson.
Once Young combined his talent with technique, he became a much more dangerous player. He also acquired the ability to pass down the knowledge that he was gaining every day.
Now as a returning starter on the defensive line, he and senior defensive end Jonathon Cooper are tasked with leading a talented, but young, group of defensive ends behind them.
Ohio State signed four defensive ends in the 2018 class in Tyreke Smith, Tyler Friday, Javontae Jean-Baptiste, and Alex Williams. They then signed two more in 2019 in Zach Harrison and Noah Potter. All six were on hand this spring, though Friday was banged up for a portion of camp.
With so many talented youngsters around him, Young had advice for all of them this spring.
“Tyreke and Javontae, they have superstar potential,” he said. “Both of them are really twitchy, and I just tell them every day ‘Just keep working’ because there’s somebody out there in the country that’s working just as hard as you.”
Jean-Baptiste was one of the more impressive youngsters on defense this spring. When he came to Ohio State, he was tall and skinny for a defensive end. Less than a year later, he’s just as tall, but not nearly as spindly. Like Young before him, the ability is there, but it’s been the attention paid to the technique that will get him on the field this season.
“He’s maturing, he’s taking everything in meetings, just takes everything more seriously,” Young said. “He texts me and asks if I can come watch film with him so I can tell him what he has to work on with his game. I think his maturity level is really pushing him to the next level of his game.”
This past spring, Jean-Baptiste showcased his speed and athleticism by getting into the backfield and chasing the football down regardless of who had it.
That may have been the result of at least some of what Young talked to him about.
“His first step, his get-off. Just from watching film, I think get-off is the most important,” Young explained. “I think that’s the most important thing I’ve told him.”
Young also had a front row seat for the debut of Ohio State’s top 2019 signee, Zach Harrison.
Harrison is the highest-ranked defensive end recruit for the Buckeyes since Chase Young and drew comparisons to the Bosa Brothers and Young before he ever stepped on campus.
Harrison’s potential may be greater than any of those players he has been compared to, which is why Young has been so adamant that he continues to put in the work required to be great.
“As everybody knows, he came out of high school and he really doesn’t have a ceiling,” Young said. “He can be as good as he wants to be. I just tell him every day, like I tell Tyreke and Javontae, you’ve just got to keep working and keep working and keep working. Because even when you work in high school, when you get to college there are people better than you. When he goes to the NFL one day, there are going to be people that are better than him.
“So there’s always somebody out there who you’re competing against. So just put your head down, don’t say nothing, and just keep going. But Zach is going to be a really good player.”