This season in college football has been the year of the quarterback. Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Fields, Jalen Hurts, Justin Herbert- the list of quarterbacks who will play on Sundays next year (or two years for Justin Fields) is long. All of them are putting up Heisman level numbers, and all of them, minus Herbert, have their team squarely in the conversation for the College Football Playoff. Justin Fields has a ridiculous TD-INT ratio, Burrow has transformed the Tigers into an offensive machine, and Hurts has better numbers than his Oklahoma Heisman-winning predecessors, Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray. It would be safe to assume, then, that one of those great QBs should win the Heisman, right?
Wrong. The best player in America this year hasn’t been a standout quarterback. It has been the dominant, game-wrecking defensive end from Ohio State, Chase Young. Though he did miss two games due to suspension, he still has 16.5 sacks and 7 forced fumbles on the year. And he still has at least three games left to play. His numbers have been absurd, but his presence has been even better. He is as effective a run-stopper as he is a pass-rusher. Even if he is not the one making the tackle, you have to account for him on every play. Double teams, misdirection, draw plays- any offense he plays has to throw the kitchen sink at him on every play if they want to get any positive yards. He is the only defensive player in the country who alters the opposing team’s entire gameplan. And, to top it all off, he has been at his best in Ohio State’s biggest games. Against Wisconsin and Penn State, Young had 15 tackles, 7 sacks, and 4 forced fumbles. He was clearly the most impactful player on the field in both games, and, if he continues his dominant play through his next two games, should be rewarded for it in December.
However, history is not on Young’s side. He would be only the second defensive player to win the award, joining Charles Woodson. Why is it that only one defensive player has ever won the award? Because the quarterbacks grab your attention. They have the ball in their hands on every offensive snap. But this year, there is no doubt. Chase Young has been at his best in the biggest games. He already has some of the best numbers for a defensive end in one season, and he’ll still get three or four more games to add to his totals. He not only puts up the numbers, but he makes the rest of his defense better too. He takes pressure of his secondary, and makes it easier for his fellow linemen to get to the quarterback. Chase Young is the most outstanding player, the best player, the most valuable player week in and week out. If he continues to play the way he has the first nine games of the year, Young will be the first player to win the Heisman without ever playing an offensive snap.