Chase Young injured his left ankle in the season opener.
His right one got rolled two weeks later against TCU, the game in which his monster of a linemate was lost for good.
No, this wasn’t how Young envisioned his sophomore season unfolding at Ohio State. He had goals of bookending Nick Bosa and having meetings at the quarterback all season. But with Bosa gone and himself physically limited, Young had to adjust. Not until the Maryland game did he feel healthy, though it’s a testament to his ability that Young was productive anyway.
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He led the Buckeyes in tackles for loss (14½), sacks (9½) and quarterback hurries and earned second-team all-Big Ten honors.
Now fully healthy, he is looking forward to ending his season in style at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.
“I’ve never been to Cali before,” he said.
Young entered Ohio State with as much fanfare as any Buckeyes defensive lineman since, well, the Bosas. He showed glimpses of his five-star ability as a freshman and was poised to catapult from that this year.
But he injured his left ankle against Oregon State on a play that he and Bosa hoped to replicate often. Bosa, from the right side, and Young from the left converged on the quarterback. As Bosa made the sack, Young reached to assist and landed awkwardly on his left ankle.
“When I leaned back, it popped,” he said. “The next day I could barely walk on it. I was in treatments the whole day and sweating like it was a whole workout.”
When Young got two sacks the next week, he realized that even at less than 100 percent, he was good enough.
Against Penn State, he had three sacks and the game-clinching tackle on a fourth down. But when his production slipped after that, he grew frustrated. Defensive line coach Larry Johnson helped counsel him through it.
“After the Penn State game, I think everybody expected something crazy every game,” Young said. “That’s what I tried to do. I tried to put it on the line every game. But offenses prepare for defenses, and it’s not going to go like that every game. When I didn’t play the way I wanted to play, I would get down on myself, like every player who wants to be great does. He told me that happens to everybody and I just tried to finish strong.”
His ankle finally started to heal, and he had two sacks against Maryland, one against Michigan and three against Northwestern in the Big Ten championship game. It was the kind of dominance that already has created speculation about Young’s draft ceiling when he is eligible to turn pro after next season. Think high first round.
“Obviously, it’s in your mind, but when you’re here, you can’t think too much about it,” Young said. “You can’t forget that you’re still a college football player. You can’t forget you’re still performing for your scholarship. They say if you worry about that too much, you’re going to lose your focus on where you are right now.”
First is the Rose Bowl, and Young is looking forward to being reunited — off the field — with Bosa, who is training in southern California.
“I’m going to see my guy, for sure,” Young said. “I’ve already hit him up.”
Young said that Bosa, even while apart from the team, would watch video and give him tips.
What did Young reply to Bosa?
“I told him chill, get your body right and make some mill(ion)s,” he said.
Projected to be potentially the top pick of the 2019 draft, Bosa certainly will. Young’s time is coming, too.