Moments after providing on-air analysis of a Wisconsin-Ohio State football game last fall, FOX Sports analyst Joel Klatt boarded a crowded elevator in Ohio Stadium. When a reporter asked him what he thought of defensive end Chase Young, Klatt blurted, “I just called him the best player in the country on TV — and I think it’s a pretty safe argument. He’s amazing.”
Young went into the 2019 season with high praise and lofty expectations, and, sure enough, he played like an All-American throughout the first half of his junior season. But on that fateful October afternoon in Columbus, he morphed into some sort of newly discovered Marvel character — Captain Havoc, perhaps — and destroyed the UW backfield with six tackles (five for a loss), four sacks and two forced fumbles in the Buckeyes’ 38–7 win.
A 6'5", 265-pound specimen, Young had a career year last season. He also made followers of a quarterback-centric sport peer outside the lines.
Klatt, of course, wasn’t the only one frothing at the mouth about the performance. OSU’s even-keeled head coach, Ryan Day, also gushed during his postgame comments, stating, “He’s probably the most dominant player in all of college football now. And his impact in a game like this goes to show his versatility. This was not just a passing game where you go after the quarterback. You had to play tough and gritty inside.”
That nationally televised performance served notice that Young could overwhelm one of the nation’s best offensive lines, help slow down star running back Jonathan Taylor and do it from multiple angles and pre-snap positions. Against the Badgers, the highly athletic junior lined up at both end spots and even as a stand-up linebacker.
The first time he stood out of a crouch, UW head coach Paul Chryst shuddered and called a timeout — but it didn’t matter. Young blew past Wisconsin’s Jason Erdmann and charged at QB Jack Coan, who dumped the ball off to Garrett Groshek behind the line of scrimmage. Young then recovered and flew past his own teammates to make the tackle and blow up the play.
Those kinds of highlights were prevalent all season, and several of them came against double-teams, his get-off too explosive for two blockers to handle.
As the Buckeyes continued to storm through the regular season unscathed and survived a rematch with Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game, the national sentiment was the same — Young had to be regarded as one of the nation’s best players.
Even after serving a two-game suspension for accepting a loan from a family friend prior to his junior season, and despite being held without a sack in his last three games, Young still earned enough Heisman Trophy votes to join QBs Joe Burrow, Jalen Hurts and teammate Justin Fields in New York City for the presentation of the award.
“I think I can make a big impact if I go out there and do what I can do and play like I know I can play,” he said prior to Ohio State’s epic Fiesta Bowl matchup with Clemson. “A defensive end definitely can change the game, can wreck a whole ballgame, and that’s what I plan to do.”
Young seemed to make his presence felt each time he donned scarlet and gray, although he did play sparingly as a freshman. With teammate Nick Bosa dealing with a groin injury in 2018, Young vaulted into the starting lineup and into stardom. He finished that season with 14.5 TFLs and 10.5 sacks.
Young set school records with 16.5 sacks and 117 sack yards in 2019 and ranks second in school annals to Mike Vrabel (36 sacks for 245 yards) with 31.5 career sacks and 211 sack yards.
He might have threatened Vrabel’s marks if not for the suspension. Consider that Young was forced to sit out the game with Maryland, which allowed seven sacks against the Buckeyes.
Not surprisingly, he announced his intention to bypass his senior season in early January, thereby vaulting toward the top of the impending draft list.
His official announcement on Twitter regarding his future included a simple phrase — “See you soon on Sundays” — but it may as well have been a sky-filling warning flare.
No one doubts that the beastly D-end is ready for professional football. Good luck finding anyone who doesn’t think he’s about to terrorize it as well.
It also helps Young’s cause that his former OSU bookend, Bosa, turned in a stellar 2019 campaign with the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers and was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Most NFL scouting services believe Young is a talent without any apparent weakness or equal, although his size, speed, strength, and massive hands remind some of former NFL star Jevon Kearse. Other than being nitpicked for sometimes raising his pad level a bit, Young is as NFL-ready as it gets, and his name will be affixed at or near the top of draft lists all across the country.
Barring a trade at the top of the draft, Young appears to have three possible destinations: He could go first overall to Cincinnati, thereby staying in the Buckeye State; he could end up a Washington Redskin (if Washington doesn’t trade down), which would be fitting for an Upper Marlboro, Md., product; or he could head to the state up north and become an instant standout in the Detroit Lions’ defense.
Bet on A or B.
If the Bengals tab Burrow as expected, the Redskins brass likely will rejoice, never more happy to lose to the rival Cowboys at the close of the season, a defeat that secured their No. 2 overall position.
Wherever Young ends up, he’ll arrive with a grocery cart full of hardware. Along with being a Heisman Trophy finalist, Young was named the Big Ten’s Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year and the Smith-Brown Defensive Lineman of the Year. He also won the coveted Silver Football Award, which goes to the conference’s top player, becoming just the seventh defender to do so in 95 years.
Young also won the Bednarik Award and Bronko Nagurski Trophy, which are both given to the nation’s most outstanding defensive player, as well as the Ted Hendricks Award, which honors college football’s top defensive end.
Best of all, Young was a willing leader and team captain who proved he could be an important part of an elite defense. With him commanding double- and even triple-teams at times, Ohio State ranked among the nation’s top five statistically in six major categories, including No. 1 in total defense (259.7 yards per game), passing yardage (156.0 yards per game) and pass efficiency (97.50); No. 2 in red zone scoring (65.5 percent); and No. 4 in scoring defense (13.7 points per game).
By every measure, his game figures to translate on the next level.
“I think that Chase is going to be a great player,” Klatt said recently on a Washington, D.C.-area radio show. “There are a few things that he does as well or better than anybody. Mostly it’s his first step, so he can beat you with speed. But he has tremendous hands as well.
“He’s just a total game wrecker. Every time that he’s needed to make a play, it seemed like he was close. From my standpoint, this is the type of guy that you can draft, you can plug him in and you can play him right away. I think he is a better version of Nick Bosa. Bosa is explosive, but he’s shorter. Chase has better length. He’s a little better versus the run because of that length.
“He is the type of guy that I think can be an All-Pro multiple times in his career."
Young is already a leading candidate to be among the most fearsome inhabitants of NFL backfields this season.
Captain Havoc. No cape required.
— Written by Jeff Rapp (@RappUp) for Athlon's 2020 NFL Draft Guide. With in-depth scouting reports on 230 of the top prospects, position-by-position rankings of 526 draft-eligible players, NFL depth charts and personnel needs, features, and more it's the most complete preview of the upcoming draft. Click here to get your copy.