Analysis: Ohio State’s Young will chase Heisman to New York
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Chase Young needed help from a police officer to get through the crowd of fans that poured onto the field after Ohio State beat Penn State at the Horseshoe. Otherwise, Young spent Saturday doing pretty much whatever he wanted for the Buckeyes.
The defensive end returned from a two-game NCAA suspension and reinserted himself into the Heisman Trophy race with three sacks among four tackles for loss and nine tackles overall in Ohio State’s victory over Penn State. The most basic numbers hardly tell the full story.
“Oh my gosh,” Buckeyes coach Ryan Day said. “I think Chase Young deserves to be in New York. How dominant of a player is Chase Young? And the impact he has on the game is just unbelievable.”
New York City is where the Heisman ceremony will be held Dec. 14, and yes, Young unquestionably should be there as one of the finalists for college football’s most famous award. Young’s candidacy will test Heisman voters, but it should be an easy exam. There should be place for the most talented player in college football on every ballot even though history says a few things will work against him:
— Young’s position. No player who exclusively plays defense ever has won the award, but there have been a few in recent years who have been finalists.
— Young missed two games. They weren’t big games, but missing games usually hurts a Heisman contender.
— Young has two talented teammates on the other side of the ball who have played well enough to be in the Heisman conversation.
None of that should deter Heisman voters. The question is not whether Young should be a finalist. Clearly, the answer is yes. Young has been so good, leading the nation with a school-record 16 sacks, he will enter the last two games of the season with a chance to catch presumptive frontrunner Joe Burrow from LSU and become the first defense-only Heisman winner.
“He’s an incredible player,” Ohio State defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley said. “If there’s a more dominant player in the country on defense, bring me the tape.”
In April, Young will follow in the path of the Bosa brothers and become the latest Buckeyes pass rusher taken in the top five of the NFL Draft. Maybe No. 1 overall. On Saturday, he broke the Ohio State record for sacks in a season previously held by Vernon Gholston, another former top-five pick.
Quarterbacks have had a lock on the Heisman for most of the last two decades. Since 2000, only three times has the award gone to a non-quarterback. USC running back Reggie Bush won it in 2005 — and was stripped of the award because of NCAA violations. Alabama RBs Mark Ingram (2009) and Derrick Henry (2014) are the other players to break the run of quarterbacks.
In the age of offense and with quarterbacks more efficient than ever before, it is understandable the Heisman has become almost exclusively for passers. Burrow is on his way to a historic season, on pace to set records for completion percentage (78.9) and efficiency rating (203.66). He has thrown for 4,014 yards, 41 touchdowns and just six interceptions for the No. 1 team in the country.
Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was so good before being injured last week that he should still receive consideration. Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts is in the mix. Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard and Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor are having sensational seasons.
Young has two more chances to make a statement: Saturday at No. 10 Michigan and then in the Big Ten championship game Dec. 7.
The following week he should be in the Big Apple with a legitimate chance to make Heisman history.