The first time sophomore defensive end Chase Young beat sophomore offensive tackle Thayer Munford around the edge and had his eyes on redshirt sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins in the Spring Game, he got a stern warning from head coach Urban Meyer.
“Don’t even tackle, don’t even tackle,” Young recalled Meyer yelling as he grabbed Haskins by shoulder pads right behind the signal-caller’s neck.
Little did Meyer know, he would be yelling that out what felt like a dozen more times Saturday afternoon.
Despite being credited with just one sack, Young said he would have had six or seven sacks if he could tackle quarterbacks. No one should doubt his unofficial count. Seemingly every possession Young played, he got his hands on a quarterback or disrupted a pass.
Nothing about Young’s performance should surprise anyone.
The physical specimen spent his first season backing up four future NFL players — junior Nick Bosa and now-departed Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis and Jalyn Holmes. Despite not playing starter-level snaps due to the veteran talent at his position, Young, a former five-star prospect, flashed enough for Holmes to call him a future No. 1 overall draft pick one week into last season.
“Chase is going to be a really good player — he’s a good player now,” defensive coordinator Greg Schiano said after the Spring Game. “He’s got the potential to be something special. With [defensive line coach Larry Johnson] working with him, I fully expect that to happen.”
On Saturday, Young demonstrated the destruction he can create in opposing backfields.
Haskins and the rest of the quarterbacks wore black jerseys in the Spring Game to ensure no defensive players would hit them. They were the only things protecting the group from Young.
“It’s like you’ve got to slow down. You don’t want to hit them because coach Meyer don’t want you to touch the quarterbacks. They’re so pretty boys,” Young said with a laugh.
A lanky, yet filled out 6-foot-5, 260-pounder who is decidedly not a pretty boy, Young is hard to avoid noticing. His mixture of speed and strength stands out, even when just taking in warmups. As a true freshman, his body was constantly compared to that of an NFL defensive end because he was so chiseled, despite being just 18 years old.
Now, he has begun to turn that raw potential into results. And it doesn’t hurt that his nickname — “The Predator” — perfectly fits his style of play.
“Chase is a physically imposing guy with his length, so I think that’s an advantage he has,” Schiano said. “And I think he’s getting better at the technique that coach J teaches. I think that’s going to be a lethal combination.”
That combination will be important to utilize during all parts of the game, which is why Young said the most important aspect of the Spring Game was playing as many snaps as possible.
“Just real long drives like that where if I’m in a game situation if I’m in, I’m going to have to be in there and be strong and still burst off the ball the 50th play of the game just like the first play,” Young said.
Young said Johnson told him he will play 50 to 60 snaps per game. Last season, Young was lucky to see 20 snaps since Bosa, Hubbard, Lewis and Holmes earned the vast majority of playing time. With three of those four gone, Young must step up into a starting role.
Bosa will start in the opposite defensive end spot and redshirt sophomore Jonathon Cooper and redshirt junior Jason Cornell will rotate into the game. Last year’s depth at the position will not exist in the fall.
Therefore, Johnson has keyed in on ensuring Young can provide consistent impact plays and reach the unit’s goal of being better than last year’s defensive end group.
“[Johnson is] staying on me every day,” Young said. “I think he knows I got a lot of potential. He knows what I can be maybe one day and he stays on me. I love playing for him because even little mistakes, he stays on me about those. He’s just trying to make me great.”
Young’s impressive performance on Saturday first came against Munford, but continued when matched up against senior offensive tackle Isaiah Prince, who might be Ohio State’s best offensive lineman.
It didn’t matter who tried to block him — he got the better of the matchup. He’s hoping that remains true once the season begins in September. Young said he has already begun to watch film on Oregon State, the Buckeyes’ Week 1 opponent. This time, the quarterbacks won’t have black jerseys to protect themselves.