“I would say I really haven’t thought of him in the human context.”
Those are the words of Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio this week when asked if Ohio State’s junior defensive end Chase Young reminded him of anyone he’s seen in the past.
Both Dantonio and Frost have had to resort to near fantasy in order to describe Young and the impact he is having for the Buckeyes this season, and they’re not wrong in doing so.
Young currently leads the nation in sacks with 8.0, but quarterbacks feel his presence long before he introduces his shoulder to their sternums. They have to know where he is at all times because if they ever lose track of him, he won’t stay missing for long.
“He’s a complete game changer,” Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley said. “You can’t block him one on one. You can’t try to. You better not try to because if you do, you’re going to pay. So he allows us to do more in coverage without getting too risky, per se, if we keep sending people.”
Hafley being the Buckeyes’ secondary coach knows just how important Young is to Ohio State’s pass defense. They intercepted three passes this past Saturday in Nebraska, but it wasn’t just because of great coverage. In fact, sometimes — like cornerback Jeff Okudah’s interception from his butt — the coverage had nothing to do with it. It all began with a pass rush and the Ohio State pass rush begins with Chase Young.
“When we pick those balls off, you’ve got to look up front,” Hafley said after Saturday’s game. “To me, good secondaries have good D-lines. We were getting after the quarterback today with a four-man rush. The rush plus coverage was just… Chase and all of those guys up front were outstanding.”
This week, Chase Young turns his eyes to the Michigan State Spartans and quarterback Brian Lewerke. The Spartans have had some issues at left tackle this season, which is the last thing an offense wants to be dealing with when Young is on the prowl.
Despite the problems, Michigan State is still leading the Big Ten with just four sacks allowed this season.
They will have their plans in place for Young, but they also have to make sure they don’t lose focus on what has been working this season. This is the balance that Ohio State head coach Ryan Day describes as an art.
“I think if you spend too much time thinking about it, you can get yourself all distracted,” he said. “If you don’t spend enough time, it can beat you. I think that’s kind of the art of coaching, again, is how much do you spend time on a great player?
“There’s a couple great players on Michigan State. How much time are we going to spend figuring out how to neutralize those guys because they are the difference makers? In college football, great players have to play great, and Chase is one of those guys that demands a lot of attention.”
Mark Dantonio has seen some great players in his time, especially along the defensive line. What he has seen from Chase Young is rare, which is another reason he hasn’t seen fit to compare him to anybody else until prompted.
“They’ve had guys down there like him in the past. Everybody’s had a guy like that in the past at some point in time. But I can’t put a comparison on it,” Dantonio said.
“He’s a very good player, big strong defensive end, maybe a Robaire Smith type of guy from back in the day A guy that played 11 years in the league, was a dominant defensive end for us. He’s firm, he’s very well coached, and he’s got a very quick first step out of the box. I don’t really think of him in terms of, ‘oh, he’s just like so and so.’ I just look at him like a guy who’s extremely productive, making big plays out there. We have to be able to control him to some degree because he can wreck a football game.”