COLUMBUS, Ohio — In theory, Ohio State and Urban Meyer should have been playing catchup in the recruitment of Chase Young.
A 5-star prospect, Young hails from Hyattsville, Md., and has no previous ties to the Buckeye State. Not only that, but as a top-10, nationally-ranked recruit, the highly-touted defensive end held offers from nearly every major college football program, including Alabama and nearby Maryland.
At the very least, Young’s recruitment should have been a dramatic one for Ohio State.
Yet it was anything but that.
Not only did the the nation’s second-ranked weakside defensive end in the 2017 class commit to the Buckeyes last July, but Young stuck with his pledge all the way through. In fact, the only non-Ohio State official visit he took came last November, when he watched the Buckeyes beat his home state Terrapins 62-3 in College Park, Md., a mere 15-minute drive from Hyattsville.
The biggest reason Ohio State not only was able to secure the services of Young but also play the role of front-runner throughout his recruitment? The presence of Buckeyes defensive line coach Larry Johnson.
“Coach Johnson’s the best D-line coach in the nation,” Young told me on the “Inside the Shoe” Ohio State podcast. “You can’t go anywhere else and play for a man like coach Johnson.”
Young isn’t the first prospect to share such sentiment.
Since arriving in Columbus three years ago, Johnson has served as one of the premier recruiters on the Ohio State staff. In 2015, he inked highly-touted defensive tackle Jashon Cornell and helped lead the charge on offensive linemen Matthew Burrell and Isaiah Prince. The following year, he played a key part in the recruitments of 5-star defensive end Nick Bosa, 4-star end Jonathon Cooper, quarterback Dwayne Haskins and linebacker Keandre Jones.
But while Johnson has been more than a helping hand in Ohio State’s efforts in the D.M.V. (D.C., Maryland, Virginia) area thanks to his time at Penn State, recruiting defensive linemen is the fourth-year Buckeyes assistant’s true specialty. After all, you’d be hard pressed to find an assistant in college football with a track record at his respective position as impressive as Johnson possesses with his.
There’s a reason @R2X_Rushmen1 is the best in the business…
— Ohio State Football (@OhioStateFB) February 15, 2017
Dating back to his 14 seasons at Penn State, Johnson has coached eight Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year award winners, including one in each of the past three years at Ohio State. Of those players, four also won the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year award, including former Buckeyes star Joey Bosa in 2014.
Perhaps more impressive, however, is Johnson’s resume when it comes to the NFL draft.
Between his time in State College and Columbus, Johnson has produced a combined seven first-round picks in the NFL draft. That group includes 2000 No. 1 overall pick Courtney Brown, five-time Pro Bowl selection Tamba Hali and the reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year in Bosa.
Ohio State won’t have a defensive lineman picked in the upcoming draft, but it won’t take long for Johnson to add to his first-round resume; current Buckeyes defensive ends Tyquan Lewis and Sam Hubbard each possess first-round potential, thanks in large part to their position coach’s tutelage.
And make no mistake, when it comes to Johnson’s track record, recruits have taken notice.
“Coach J teaches such great technique and not many people play with that kind of technique in the league,” Nick Bosa said in December. “You see the guys that Coach J coaches, like Tamba Hali and a bunch of guys that he’s coached in the league. They translate so well because their technique is so good.”
That’s how a prospect like Young, who possesses clear first-round potential, winds up at Ohio State. Not only does Johnson have a penchant for attracting the nation’s top talent, but he has a history of refining it as well.
For the Buckeyes, Young’s recruitment should have been an uphill battle.
But with the nation’s “best D-line coach” on its side, Ohio State moved to the front of the line and never looked back.