COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio State's class of true freshmen has proven to be one of its best in recent memory. Players like Baron Browning, Isaiah Pryor and Thayer Munford are all seeing time either with the 2's or the 3's in positional play, to name just a few of the 16 or so players from the class of 21 who have played in some capacity.
There are a couple of players who have cracked the rotation to see action early in the game. Everyone knows what JK Dobbins has meant to the Ohio State offense as he started in game one at running back in the place of injured Mike Weber and has not looked back. As for defensive end Chase Young, there never was a chance that he was going to start as a first-year player but that has not stopped him from seeing extended action through Ohio State's first five games this season.
Young has been credited with 10 tackles and 2.5 tackles for the Buckeyes this season, coming in as part of an Ohio State defensive line that can honestly roll more than a dozen players in and out of the lineup.
Defensive line coach Larry Johnson has been impressed with his young defensive end but does not want to rush him out there and put him into bad situations as he is still figuring out the college game.
"The thing that I don’t want to do with a freshman is (to) put him in a situation and give him a chance to fail, I want him to have success every time he gets on the football field," Johnson said. "I don’t want to put him in a situation where the game is on the line and he is in the game, I don't want to do that right now. His time will come."
Ohio State's recent schedule has allowed Johnson to get his young defensive end as well as interior lineman Haskell Garrett out on the field a little bit more. Young has had more opportunity thus far however.
"It is really neat because he is playing a lot of football right now," Johnson added. "He has probably played 60 plays in the last two games and for a freshman that is pretty outstanding. Again, it is about a growing process and he is learning how to play and get him on the field and play at maximum speed at this level. He is doing a great job. There are some growing pains that he will go through but so far so good."
The Buckeyes are trying to find new ways to get Young on the field in situations that he can be successful in. One such instance is both Young and Sam Hubbard getting looks at the middle linebacker position in certain sets.
"We are just trying to build our rushmen package and just trying to change it up so teams don’t get a feel for what we are doing," Johnson said. "Just part of what we are doing right there."
That look could just be window-dressing or the Buckeyes might roll it out as a change of pace. Either way, teams will have to prepare for it.
There should be ample opportunity this week against Maryland for Young to see some snaps as well. Those opportunities may not be as plentiful in a few weeks when the Buckeyes host Penn State. Johnson has been very open and transparent with his young players to make sure they are aware of the situation.
"We play (in) a tough game and maybe he gets 15 reps, I will go to the side and say this is the game, I want to put you in a situation to be successful and this might not be the chance to do that," Johnson said. "We try and talk about that."
Young will still have plenty of opportunity this year and by 2018, there won't be many bodies in front of him at the position as players like Jalyn Holmes and Tyquan Lewis both run out of eligibility, Sam Hubbard could be an early NFL departure, and the once-crowded room looks a lot less crowded.
The reps that Young is getting now will go a long way toward 2018 and 2019. And if Young is as good as everyone expects, nobody should expect a 2020 for Young as the NFL awaits.