COLUMBUS, Ohio — A man leaving Ohio Stadium makes a noncontroversial statement in a crowded elevator full of Buckeyes fans. “That Chase Young,” he says, “he should be the No. 1 draft pick. He should win the Heisman Trophy.”
While one of those things could potentially happen six months from now, the other is unlikely. Only one defensive player—Charles Woodson for Michigan in 1997—has won the award given to college football’s “most outstanding player.” But perhaps voters should consider the Buckeyes’ 6’5”, 265-pound Chase Young. In No. 3 Ohio State’s 38-7 pummeling of No. 13 Wisconsin on a dreary autumn Saturday afternoon, the menacing defensive end with flowing blonde dreadlocks made four ferocious sacks (he now leads the nation with 13.5) and posted six tackles, five for loss. Young also forced two fumbles for the second time this season. Even notorious Buckeyes enthusiast LeBron James was buzzing about it on social media.
“I have to keep perfecting my craft,” said Young, who is now tied for the program’s single-game record for both sacks and TFL
This was one of the most dominant individual performances in Ohio State history—and this is a program that’s very much enjoyed the recent successes of Joey and Nick Bosa. The fact that it came against an opponent like Wisconsin, one that traditionally churns out offensive linemen built to block players just like Young, makes this all the more impressive.
Young spent the day roaming around the defensive line. He lined up on the right side, the left side, and at one point he was used as a stand-up linebacker. It didn’t matter what Wisconsin threw at him. He blew past double-teams and on one play in the fourth quarter, hit Wisconsin quarterback Jack Coan so hard that the football flew out of his hands. At this point in the season, defensive line coach Larry Johnson is just trying to be more creative and force offenses to adjust to them. It makes tracking Young a nightmare.
“You start to feel ghosts and see ghosts,” said coach Ryan Day, a former quarterback, offering a little empathy for Coan. “Especially when he’s on your backside. Are you getting the ball out fast enough? His impact is felt throughout the game schematically. But also, if you’re a quarterback and you certainly know he’s over there, you want to keep half an eye on him, which certainly affects your game.”
Ohio State’s defense held Wisconsin to 191 total yards. And perhaps most notably, limited Badgers tailback and Heisman candidate Jonathan Taylor to a season-low 52 yards on 20 carries without scoring.
“The best I’ve been around,” Day said of Young. “I had a chance to see Nick Bosa last year and I coached in the NFL and saw some really good players at different times. But he is as good as I’ve been around, again, because he’s so versatile.”
Young was ruthless from the start, ending four Wisconsin drives with sacks or tackles for loss. In the second half he stopped consecutive Badgers’ series with strip-sacks, which the Buckeyes turned into touchdowns to officially seal the win.
Earlier in the week, Day and his coaching staff challenged the team to be at their best against Wisconsin. Despite the Badgers’ stunning loss to Illinois last week, this was still a Big Ten showdown with College Football Playoff implications. And it was going to be the Buckeyes’ toughest test yet.
“Big-time players step up in big-time games,” Day said. “And a lot of big-time players did.”
That includes quarterback Justin Fields, who went 12 of 22 for 167 yards with two passing touchdowns and another rushing. He also absorbed five sacks against Wisconsin’s top-rated defense. Running back J.K. Dobbins, who delivered a Heisman worthy performance of his own, out-gained the Badgers offense by himself with 221 yards of total offense (163 rushing yards with two touchdowns plus 58 yards receiving).
Young is projected to be the top non-quarterback taken in the 2020 NFL draft. But his Heisman hopes remain slim no matter how many fans believe he deserves college football’s greatest individual prize. The most recent defensive player to come close to winning was Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o, a runner-up to Johnny Manziel in 2012. And for as destructive as he was, Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh finished fourth in 2009.
Young doesn’t care that much though. He just wants to keep performing and help Ohio State make the College Football Playoff and contend for a national championship.
That doesn’t mean his teammates won’t keep vouching for him, though.
“I thought the Heisman was supposed to be for the best player in college football,” cornerback Damon Arnette Jr. said. “Everybody talks about Chase Young as the best player in college football. Just give him the trophy.”