Robert Landers knows Chase Young.
Not “The Predator,” not the 6-foot-5, 265-pound specimen who lines up at defensive end, using his hands to easily swipe past seemingly any tackle in the Big Ten. He knows Young as the “little brother” in the defensive line room.
And as the big brother, the redshirt junior defensive lineman uses the physical attributes Young has against him.
“We make fun of it,” Landers said. “He’s like a little brother in the room, so you have to pick on your little brother a little bit.”
But after the performance Young had against No. 21 Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship on Saturday, Landers knows one thing for sure.
“I would rather play with him than against him,” he said.
Lining up on the left side against the Wildcats, Young recorded three tackles, all of them sacks, forcing a fumble in the second quarter, which led to an Ohio State field goal. He also batted up a pass from Northwestern redshirt senior quarterback Clayton Thorson at the line of scrimmage leading to an interception by redshirt junior cornerback Damon Arnette.
Young said the quarterback matchup created a good opportunity for him and the rest of the defensive line, saying the game plan was running different blitzes to overcome what the offensive line was giving them.
But even as a player consistently getting into the backfield, forcing Thorson to rush his throws, Young would not take any of the credit the stats gave him after the game had concluded.
“It felt real good, but I am going to give all of my glory to God,” Young said. “I’m going to give it to God, to me trusting in coach [Larry] Johnson, trusting in the process, coach [Urban] Meyer for recruiting me here, I’m going to give it to my teammates because without them, the sack today I wouldn’t have even got if they didn’t do their job right.”
This game was much more than just a three-sack performance for the sophomore defensive end. It was an opportunity to take over the defensive line, to make it his room, his unit. It was an opportunity for Young to set the tone as something to spring board into the 2019 season.
Because the young guys are watching. Freshman Tommy Togiai said he sees a “relentless effort” out of Young, something that defines him as a player.
“He brings that energy and that playmaking ability that he brings. He’s just crucial for the whole defense,” Togiai said. “Whenever you need a big play, he’s there.”
Young does not see himself as that leader of the defense, that vocal leader Landers or redshirt junior defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones is. He plays by example.
“I don’t say really too much out of my mouth,” Young said. “I just try to play and hopefully people follow, hopefully people get energy off of what I do on the field.”
However, Landers thought Young took a step forward.
“I feel like tonight was a night where we needed him to step up big time,” Landers said. “He did and I honestly feel like he exceeded all expectations that we had for him, that we have had for him tonight.”
Opponents are beginning to find out about who Young is as a pass rusher, about the expectations that are attached to a player like him, with the physical frame he has, the sheer ability he possesses, what he considers to be God-given.
Freshman defensive end Tyreke Smith said Young is proving to opposing quarterbacks that he needs to be planned for.
“I know when a quarterback sees Chase Young in there, I know he’s thinking like ‘I always got to keep him in mind,’” Smith said.
Landers knows Young as a sophomore defensive end. He knows him as a “little brother.” But when asked what was the first thing that came to mind when thinking about Young, he laughed and shook his head.
“The Predator,” Landers said. “The boy was ballin’ tonight.”