Ohio State then-sophomore defensive end Chase Young (2) pumps up the crowd in the second half of the B1G Championship Game vs. Northwestern on Dec. 1. Ohio State won 45-24. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Multimedia Editor

Junior defensive end Chase Young is entering his first full season as arguably the best player on Ohio State’s defense.

Young broke out in his sophomore season, leading Ohio State with 9.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss, but now the player projected to be a top five draft pick will be expected to lead Ohio State in more than just statistical categories. 

“I see more seriousness now,” head coach Ryan Day said of Young’s changed mentality. “I think he knows this is his time to step up and be a leader.”

Since losing Nick Bosa and Dre’Mont Jones on the Buckeye defensive line to the 2019 NFL Draft, Young has earned the lion’s share of national attention among the Ohio State defense ahead of his third year.

Young was named All-Big Ten second team for his efforts this past season, but he has been named to both the Sporting News preseason All-America first team and the Bednarik Award preseason watch list — an honor given to the country’s best defensive player.

But it isn’t only Ohio State coaches and national media that think Young is due for an uptick in production and responsibilities this year. He’s taking it upon himself.

“I’m just trying to lead the guys and be more vocal,” Young said. “Lead by example because people follow by how you play.”

Despite his individual accolades, Young’s leadership was already on display in his willingness to talk about the talent of his teammates, and he believes some will become nationally recognized.

“This year we have a lot of sleepers that a lot of people haven’t heard about across the country,” Young said. “Tyreke Smith, he’s going to be a wicked guy coming off the edge. People don’t know about him. Tommy Togiai is another guy who is going to be big for us. Inside is where I really think we are really deep right now, especially at the nose tackle.”

Young’s been referenced by multiple teammates as the vocal leader of the team and the “sleepers” up front. He was voted one of seven team captains Monday.

“Pregame, all that stuff, Chase has tried to take the lead on that. He’s our vocal guy on that,” senior safety Jordan Fuller said. 

Defensive line coach Larry Johnson has coached four of the past five Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year award winners and will look to Young to become the next.

Young said Johnson plans to give him more plays than in 2018. After playing 82 snaps in the Rose Bowl against Washington, Young said he feels optimistic in how effective he can be with a larger role.

Although many think Young is a polished player, he believes he has a lot of room for improvement. When asked what he could do better, Young had more than a few aspects of his game in mind.

“Oh, everything,” Young said. “Playing the run, playing the pass, my hands, my hips, just the regular fundamentals of being a great D-end.”

The defense has a lot to prove entering the 2019 season after finishing No. 72 in the NCAA in total defense this past year. Given the slew of coaching changes on the defensive side of the ball, it seems the reset button has been pressed.

“We definitely don’t dwell on last season,” Young said.

With more stability and fewer headlines, Young said the players are entering this season with a renewed positive attitude.  

“I saw it [in fall camp] with the DB’s, the linebackers, the D-line. We were all fired up,” Young said. “I feel like the DB’s, their confidence is through the roof right now. We had a coaching change. So, we put last year in the past, in our head, we’re just facing forward and trying to move to getting to where we want to be.”  

Ohio State has never had a Bednarik award winner, but this may be the year that Young brings one to Columbus.