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We send out the Read Option about five times each week during football season, and we’ll see how that changes once football is over, which is so far away you shouldn’t even think about it.
If you’ve been subscribing to The Read Option since its debut in 2015, you’ll see some familiar stuff along with some new stuff. It’ll have some weekend reaction stuff during the season (the newsletter is where we’ll put a lot of our in-the-moment news reaction stuff, for example), weekly schedule Watch Grids (also available on our subreddit), the Top Whatever by Spencer Hall and others, posts that are a bit more immediate than the articles we’ll put on our site, and other stuff. It’ll also have a lot of the kind of recruiting content we’d been sending to Bud Elliott’s Crootletter. Folks, that’s right, two college football newsletters for the non-price of one.
Here’s a recent newsletter we sent out, written by Richard Johnson:
Just imagine lining up across from Chase Young.
Imagine seeing 6’5, coiled and ready to explode either through you, around you, over you, or some combination of all three at the same time. I’d call him a robot or something, but even that shortchanges Young. That he’s even mortal is stunning.
Anyone can tell you Young is good by looking at the eye-catching sack totals (13.5 through eight games) and the measurables that’ll get him drafted high. This email is about the technical details behind Young’s dominance, and also about the elephant his play has wedged into the room. We can learn a lot from his four sacks against Wisconsin.
Sack 1: When Young creates a sack opportunity for someone else, and then takes care of it himself anyway
That’s Young taking on a double team in two parts. First, he shimmies at the start of his get-off to send the tackle opposite him off balance. Then, he drags the tackle with him into and through one of the best running backs in college football, then into Jack Coan’s lap. The best defensive linemen do unheralded stuff like this all the time. They eat up double teams so their linemates can shine.
I don’t really have a descriptor for a player who does the dirty work of sack setup and the sexy work of a sack execution on the same play. You can think that that sack just appeared in Young’s lap. But it’s only there because he reset the line of scrimmage by like five yards.
Sack 2: When Young politely scoots you to the side
Wisconsin’s #71 Cole Van Lanen outweighs Young by roughly 60 pounds, but look at how effortlessly Young moves Van Lanen to the side. This is different than a Reggie White hump move. It’s distressingly smooth. There are things some pass rushers do that you understand take effort, like White’s hump move. That is a Herculean feat of strength and leverage.
I know good and well I can’t do what Young just did on that sack, but he does it so easily I feel like I can put pads on and try. Right?
Sacks 3 and 4: When Young makes blockers look like tackling dummies
The ball’s just been snapped here. Look where Young is compared to the tight end (lol) lined up across from him on his third sack. Usually, I’d point Young out with an arrow. I’m not even gonna do that. Even the most untrained eye could figure it out:
And here on his fourth sack, look where Young is compared to everyone else:
It’s already a hellacious task to block Young. If you’re beaten that badly off the ball as a blocker, you truly have no chance.
There’s a drill every defensive end has done 1,000 times in which they turn the corner around a tire, a tackling dummy, or some other inanimate object. It’s how they practice the speed rush. You know Wisconsin’s tight end is in fact not an inanimate object on sack #3, but he might as well be.
One of the most important things about pass blocking is where your feet are. If they’re not set correctly and in time, you’re done. Peep sack #4 again. If you’re perpendicular to Young, you’re gonna have a bad time.
Let’s quickly dispense with anyone who has the audacity to even sorta believe Young is in any way overrated.
Eventually, he might have a quiet game against some opponent quadruple-teaming him. Maybe a future NFL tackle will slow him down, relatively.
But see this note from after the Wisconsin game:
The nation picked a good weekend to start paying attention to Chase Young (@youngchase907):— Cam Mellor (@PFF_Cam) October 27, 2019
Saturday's performance vs Wisconsin earned a 98.6 overall game grade. That marked the highest game grade we've given to ANY DEFENSIVE PLAYER in 2019.
So I looked a bit further...
Among edge defenders with 25 snaps in one game since 2014, Chase Young's 98.6 vs Wisconsin is THE HIGHEST GAME GRADE we've ever given to an edge defender.— Cam Mellor (@PFF_Cam) October 27, 2019
He currently owns 3 of the 8 highest game grades we've ever given to an edge defender (vs Wisc, vs Miami, @ Nebraska)...
Since 2014, we have charted games 22,028 different outings from an edge defender w/ min. 25 snaps.— Cam Mellor (@PFF_Cam) October 27, 2019
Chase Young's lowest ever game grade (Week 6, 2019 @ Purdue) still ranks in the top 33% of all those performances.
Him dominating IS NOTHING NEW.
This guy is rare and special.
Let’s move on to what’s on the tip of your tongue: “Chase Young gonna win the Heisman or nah?”
That is a complicated question, but it’s possibly on your mind given the postgame hoopla over his destruction of the Badgers. If Young does win it, then what happened Saturday will probably be his Heisman Moment. If he doesn’t, it’s because Joe Burrow or Jalen Hurts or someone else had a later Heisman Moment that was arguably sexier. Midseason Heisman winners don’t necessarily (or even usually) hoist the trophy in December.
Besides that, as you know, Young plays defense. And not the “he also returns punts or something” defense. He’s a defensive lineman. That means the bar he has to clear is bonkers. If Chase Young earns 25% of the eventual Heisman winner’s voting total, he’ll be in an elite class of defensive linemen. Here’s the list of DLs who have done that since 1972:
- Hugh Green (76.3%, finished second in 1980)
- Ndamukong Suh (62.5%, finished fourth in 2009)
- Rich Glover (49.8%, finished third in 1972)
Quickly, there are some other ancillary reasons to be optimistic that Young can get in the Suh stratosphere (I’m zeroing in on Suh because he was relatively recent):
- The big offensive players on his team, Justin Fields and J.K. Dobbins, could split votes. Also, Ohio State’s offense isn’t much better than it was in 2018, while the defense is leaps and bounds better. Young was on last year’s defense, too, but voters could see him as the face of Ohio State fixing its defensive problems.
- No other offensive player is yet to take the Heisman race by the scruff of the neck, which is one reason (besides Young’s play) that we’re even entertaining him getting a significant share of the votes. The Heisman is now almost exclusively a dual-threat QB achievement award. Joe Burrow’s the offensive frontrunner without a clear second place ... yet.
- Young plays the only glamour defensive position that is on the screen 100% of the time and offers production opportunities the casual CFB watcher (read: the bulk of Heisman voters who can’t watch every game every week) can point to and say, “Oh wow, that’s incredible.”
- His play stands out, but so does his appearance. The blonde dreads and svelte #2 on his jersey are easy to follow when he’s on the field, in case you couldn’t already.
- Ohio State’s gonna be in at least two or three of the most high-profile games for the rest of the season, because the team is in a Playoff chase. That means big broadcasts will focus on Young. Expect plenty of this for the rest of the year:
- He’s chasing a record many have thought untouchable. Terrell Suggs’ single-season FBS sack record is 24. The unofficial record is Derrick Thomas’ 27 from back when sacks weren’t an official stat. Young’s averaging about 1.7 per game, which would put him on a 25-sack pace if Ohio State happened to make the National Championship. The record is very much in play and will keep the conversation around him going even more.
Those are admittedly shallow reasons why Young may be in legitimate contention for the Heisman. I don’t even think the bulk of voters think that deeply about the award, but I do think a lot of what I just said plays into the PR push contenders need to have a shot.
But put all that to the side for a second.
Remember why you’re reading this email. It’s the same reason you’ll soon gawk at the 10-car pileup coming to a backfield near you: Chase Young is an incredible college football player.