What loss of superstar pass-rusher Chase Young means for Buckeyes

Spencer Holbrookover 1 year
Chase Young by Birm-Lettermen Row
Former Ohio State defensive end Chase Young was last season's NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

COLUMBUS — Chase Young spent three years torturing Big Ten quarterbacks and breaking Ohio State sack records.

Now, the junior defensive end will have NFL quarterbacks to chase.

Young officially declared for the NFL Draft on Friday, becoming the third Buckeye to leave the program early for the next level since the College Football Playoff loss to Clemson.

“After an amazing three years at Ohio State, it’s time for me to begin the next chapter,” Young posted on social media. “I’m excited to finally announce my declaration for the 2020 NFL Draft.”

What does the completely-expected departure of Young mean for the Buckeyes?

Chase Young leaves huge Ohio State shoes to fill

Chase Young committed to Ohio State as a 5-star prospect from Maryland, and he lived up to the expectations that came with the territory.

Young had 3.5 sacks during his freshman campaign, and when Nick Bosa went down with an injury early in 2018, Young became a superstar, totaling 10.5 sacks as a sophomore on two bad ankles. He entered his junior campaign with record-setting goals, which he reached despite serving a two-game suspension. Young broke the all-time single-season sack record with 16.5 despite the two-game absence and a lack of a sack in his final three games. He also forced six fumbles.

The fourth-place finisher in the Heisman Trophy race, Young wrecked Wisconsin’s game plan on Oct. 26, then again destroyed Penn State’s on Nov. 23. Michigan, Clemson and Wisconsin — the second time — prevented Young from recording a sack, but he still was hard to plan around — and even harder to keep away from quarterbacks. He was the most dominant defensive player in college football this season, and his trophy room filled up after the regular season.

Young captured the Chicago Tribune’s Silver Football Award, the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Award and the Bednarik Award this season, and he’s likely to be a top-five pick in April’s NFL Draft.

Chase Young-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Chase Young had one of the most dominant defensive seasons in Ohio State history. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

How can Buckeyes replace Chase Young?

Young’s absence won’t be easy to replace. Luckily for the Buckeyes, they have legendary defensive line coach Larry Johnson, who recruits at one of the highest levels in college football. They also have a returning captain, senior defensive end Jonathon Cooper, back from a season-long injury that forced him to redshirt and return for 2020.

Other candidates to replace Young will be soon-to-be sophomore Zach Harrison, who had a massive recruiting profile and showed extraordinary promise for Ohio State as the season progressed. Budding star Tyreke Smith, who has the potential to be a dominant pass-rusher, can also be a key piece for the Buckeyes as they look for production without Young. Smith’s problems have been injuries hampering the talented end. Tyler Friday also saw action in big moments, which may prove valuable for the Buckeyes down the road.

Ohio State may never have a defensive end as dominant as Young was.

But that doesn’t mean they will be worse when it comes to chasing down quarterbacks next season; Smith, Harrison, Cooper, Friday and other rising talents will be tasked with keeping the rich tradition of great defensive line play at Ohio State rolling. Despite the loss of Young, the future of the Rushmen is bright.

Pipeline for Buckeyes remains full

Any defensive line recruit in the country was most likely already aware of the reputation of Larry Johnson and his remarkable success producing NFL Draft picks. But just in case there were a few in the dark, Chase Young shined a huge spotlight on it during his record-setting campaign — and will continue to bring attention to the Buckeyes in the buildup to the draft as he fights to be the No. 1 overall pick.

Ohio State already has one of the Next Big Things on the defensive line committed with 2021 prospect Jack Sawyer intending to sign with the program, and more big-time recruiting success will surely follow thanks to the impact Young and the Bosa Brothers had for the program over the last couple seasons.