LOS ANGELES — The main storylines at bowl games usually does not revolve around the game itself. The topic is usually broader: the last game of a career for a senior wide receiver, the decision a draft-eligible quarterback will make after the final game of the season, the head coach who will be on the sideline one final time after a storied career on the sideline.
But no matter the position, the focus is on the future. And when asked about the future of the defensive line, sophomore defensive end Chase Young could do nothing but smile.
Because the future of the position was set: five-star 2019 defensive end Zach Harrison from Olentangy Orange High School, the No. 1 recruit in the state of Ohio, was the future.
Knowing the decision was between Ohio State and Michigan, Young described himself as an integral part of Harrison’s eventual commitment, serving as his host when the 2019 recruit visited campus, calling him from time to time, hanging out with him when he was around.
“I would just chill with him,” Young said. “We’d go get a bite to eat or just chill, watch TV, stuff like that. So not really too much about football.Just because [defensive line coach Larry Johnson] told him what he told him, [head coach Urban Meyer] told him what he told him. It’s really just like what you want to do.”
That’s all Young could really do. The decision was up to Harrison.
But it is a decision Young could relate to.
Harrison seems to be an amalgamation of the two leaders at defensive end: Young and junior Jonathon Cooper.
Young was a former five-star recruit and one of the most sought-after defensive ends in the 2017 class with expectations extremely high. Cooper, the No. 3 defensive end in the 2016 class and the No. 2 recruit from Ohio, played his high school ball at Gahanna Lincoln in Columbus.
Now, with Harrison joining them shortly as an early-enrollee, Cooper and Young view themselves as mentors to a player they seem themselves in.
“He’s definitely coming in not knowing what’s going on. He definitely going to have to follow somebody so he’s definitely going to have to follow me and Coop,” Young said. “I’ve just got to be a leader for him, take him under my wing. Anything I can do for him to speed up the process faster for him.”
Young and Cooper were very praiseworthy of Harrison’s ability, calling him the best player in the nation. But with that comes an expectation.
Cooper describes the transition to Ohio State as coming into a place that will give him love, but a tough love, one that’s going to get after him and toughen him up early on, which is something he had help with learning when he was a freshman.
“It’s difficult, you know, because you’re going in and then you’ve got classes and weight lifting and you’re a freshman so you have to find your way and what’s going on, but I found big brothers, so I had like Tyquan [Lewis], Jalyn Holmes, Sam Hubbard, Tracy Sprinkle, my big brothers,” Cooper said. “I latched onto them. They told me how to do it.”
But the combination of being the highest-rated recruit Ohio State has had in recent memory an being from the Columbus area is something that Harrison will have to overcome.
Cooper said being a highly-touted hometown recruit does add pressure, but that the standard he holds himself to is higher than any expectation he has seen or heard.
To Young, it provokes a simple response. It’s what he did and what he thinks Harrison should do: outwork the players in front of him.
“I think that’s what I came and did, and I think that’s why I pushed the people in front of me. It’s not like you want a young guy to come in and not work, you feel me? So that kid gets the whole unit going and keeps the whole train moving.”
The train of the defensive line is the one that signees like Harrison will try and continue to fuel.
“We’re excited,” Young said. “He’s going to be a very good player, especially under of Coach J. He’s going to craft into a beast. Definitely ready to take him under my wing and watch him bloom.”