Joey Kaufman
Chase Young [Joshua A. Bickel/Dispatch]

The video cut-ups rolled across a projector screen in the office of Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson.

It was spring 2016 and Chase Young was visiting Ohio State. He’d become one of the more sought-after high school players in his class after transferring to DeMatha Catholic, a powerhouse program in Hyattsville, Maryland, for his junior season.

Johnson sat with Young as he pulled up the footage. The joint film review is customary when he recruits defensive linemen. He likens their highlight reels to teaching tools, zeroing in on areas for improvement.

Get the news delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our BuckeyeXtra newsletter

In his assessment of Young, Johnson highlighted two things. When Young dropped into a three-point stance, he needed to raise his hips higher, lifting them above his head. He’d look like a sprinter ready to emerge from the starting blocks and allow himself to create a similar burst as a pass rusher at the line of scrimmage. His hand movement, Johnson added, should be quicker to shed blockers.

Young left impressed. No other recruiter had been as detailed when outlining a plan for his development.

“It's just like you have to be a surgeon,” Johnson said. “This is how we fix all those little things.”

But Johnson, a veteran assistant who has coached nine Big Ten defensive linemen of the year over the past two decades, was still impressed by the biggest things. Young played hard and physical. It had been evident two years earlier when he first viewed tape from his freshman season.

Young's parents recognized the same traits as he grew up in Cheltenham, Maryland, a suburb southeast of Washington.

During flag football games at just 5 years old, he sometimes tackled opposing players before yanking their flags, a habit that caused quite a stir on the sidelines.

“Parents would be yelling and screaming, ‘He can't do that. That’s not fair,’” recalled his father, Greg.

Young harbored a similar attitude on the basketball court. He relished boxing out other players underneath the basket to fight for rebounds.

“He just liked that contact,” said his mother, Carla.

Young found it fit best in football, where he could jaw with opponents, and then some.

“In basketball, they talk trash,” Young said, “‘I'm going to cross you over, I'm going to do a move and shake you and pull up in your face.’ It wasn't too convincing. If you want to talk trash in football, I'm just going to hit you the next play. You take it out even more. That was the mindset I had when I was young.”

The attitude furthered Young in his development as one of the premier pass rushers in college football, a possible No. 1 overall pick next year in the NFL draft.

Midway through his junior season at Ohio State, he has totaled 8.5 sacks, the second-most among FBS players, and is on pace to break the Big Ten season record. He has been so adept at pursuing quarterbacks that Jeff Hafley, the Buckeyes’ defensive co-coordinator, remarked recently that opponents were often prevented from having their receivers run deeper, longer-developing routes. They wouldn’t have enough time to get downfield before Young reached the passer.

His size can overwhelm offensive tackles. The school lists him at 6 feet 5 and 265 pounds, genetics from his parents. Young's father stands 6-9 and his mother 6 feet. His older sister, Weslie, who played Division III college basketball at North Carolina Wesleyan, reached 5-10.

But at various stages, Young was still waiting to grow. He said he was only about 5-10 and 175 pounds during his freshman season in high school at St. Vincent Pallotti, small enough that he lined up as a middle linebacker before moving to defensive end.

Even then, he relished his tireless approach.

“I was a dog,” Young said. “I had it mental-wise.”

He was so determined that as early as 6 years old, he told his mother that they wouldn’t need to pay for his college tuition. He’d get a scholarship.

Even at 3, he sought to prove to his father that he could swim by dog paddling across the neighborhood pool.

“I don't know what strokes he was using,” Greg said, “but he made it up and he made it back.”

For good measure, he also leaped off the diving board on that afternoon.

Young's recruiting profile soared after a growth spurt in high school and when he arrived at DeMatha as a junior in 2015. In Young’s first game, a win over Florida powerhouse Miami Central televised by ESPN, he recorded three sacks.

At least 20 scholarship offers arrived over the following weeks.

It was validation after joining the bigger program. Young remembered previously sitting at a lunch table with about a half-dozen other teammates. One of them named the players he thought would play Division I. He skipped Young.

Before long, Young became so dominant in high school that eventually his team sidelined him for portions of scrimmages in practice.

“Just so we could run our own offensive plays,” running backs coach Mo Gibson said.

Before he arrived at Ohio State, Young needed to keep growing. He finished his senior season at DeMatha in late 2016 weighing little more than  225 pounds. Rather than playing basketball that winter, which incentivized him to be trim, he spent the following months working out with Gibson, who's also a private trainer.

The pair worked out six days a week, and Gibson helped with his diet. Young would scarf two peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches before each session, then chug a protein shake afterward to add to his frame. He rarely lifted weights while growing up, mostly doing pushups and situps with his father in their family room.

By the time he enrolled at Ohio State before his freshman season, he reached at least his listed 240 pounds.

It wasn’t until his sophomore season, though, before he started for the Buckeyes. They were stocked along the defensive line, and Young needed to develop.

Mickey Marotti, the strength and conditioning coach, observed that Young still arrived a little lanky. They focused on his bendability, which would help him drop and shoot out of his three-point stance.

“If you’re strong in that position,” Marotti said, “it’s even more dangerous.”

Young's get-off move is now considered one of his strongest attributes as a pass rusher.

As hard-charging as Young remains on the field, his family describes him as easy-going off it, not quite the menacing pass rusher, but well balanced.

He sang in his high school choir and once played a variety of musical instruments. The self-described homebody lives with a bull terrier puppy. And he has thought about a career in law enforcement after his football playing days, like his father, Greg, who was a deputy sheriff in Arlington County before retiring a decade ago.

But Young said he's mostly dwelling on his goals for the second half of the season, maintaining an undefeated record as the Buckeyes remain contenders for the College Football Playoff.

He rarely slows down. His motor has always been running.


Listen to the BuckeyeXtra Football podcast: