Defensive end Chase Young burned himself into the memories of Penn State fans last year by wrapping his arms around the legs of running back Miles Sanders and bringing him down on a fourth-and-5 run that secured Ohio State’s 27-26 victory over the Nittany Lions and spoiled a Beaver Stadium “White Out.”
Almost 14 months later, Young is ready to create more mayhem on the Lions in Saturday’s matchup between the two top-10 teams at Ohio Stadium. He is well-rested after a three-week break, including a two-game NCAA suspension for accepting a loan that he eventually paid back.
“Obviously, Chase Young is back just in time for good, old Penn State,” Lions head coach James Franklin said with a smile Tuesday, at his weekly news conference. “Very impressed with him, know his uncle, have known Chase for a long time. Obviously he’s as impressive of a player on tape as there is in the country.
“Before the games he missed, people were talking about him for the Heisman and things like that. He jumps off the tape at you.”
The 6-foot-5, 265-pound junior is having as good a season as any player in the country. He leads the nation with 13½ sacks (1.69 average per game) and is second with 15½ tackles for loss (1.9). He has forced five fumbles, two coming in his last game, Oct. 26 versus Wisconsin.
The big problem for opponents has been finding Young along the defensive line. Sometimes he’s at end. Sometimes he’s in the middle or has switched to the other end. It will be a challenge for the Penn State offensive line to locate him.
“He’s a really good pass rusher,” offensive tackle Des Holmes, a Cardinal O’Hara High graduate, said Wednesday on a conference call. “Physically, you’ve just got to know where he’s at at all times. He plays both end spots, he’ll rotate around. You’ve got to study him on tape. You’ve got to know what he’s doing.
“Definitely, he’s a great player. He’s got a great get-off, he’s strong. He’s very versatile. He’s got good inside moves. He can really get around you on the bend.”
The line had one of its better games of the season last weekend against Indiana. The highlight was a nine-minute, fourth-quarter drive during which 16 of the 18 snaps were rushing plays, capped by quarterback Sean Clifford’s 1-yard dash on fourth down that provided an insurance touchdown in Penn State’s 34-27 victory.
“Definitely when you have a drive like that, it takes a lot of heart, a lot of grit,” Holmes said. “It just goes back to what we do in the offseason, working and grinding, what we do in practice every day and in preparation. We prepare for moments like that. When you execute, that’s what happens. So, moments like that just make us stronger and better.”
Young wasn’t exactly idle during his suspension. At practice, he spent time on the sideline coaching some of the Buckeyes’ younger defensive linemen.
“Outside of him being a phenomenal football player, he’s a phenomenal teammate and leader,” fifth-year senior defensive tackle Robert Landers said. “He’s coaching guys up. He’s telling them, ‘Work on this, work on that, I saw this,’ especially with the young D-ends that we have who had to play in those games when he was absent.”
The Nittany Lions know they will have their hands full. Tight end Pat Freiermuth said he and his teammates on offense need to know where Young is “so he can’t wreck our game plan.