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MCGILL: Teammates Rave About Young's Addition to Defense

Juwon Young.
Oct. 11, 2017

By Chuck McGill

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – In the infancy of Juwon Young’s time within the Marshall University football program, the 6-foot-2, 248-pound linebacker had a penchant for making the extraordinary seem routine.

There was the time in the weight room when Young’s teammates were performing power shrugs and strength and conditioning coach Luke Day measured their power output. The numbers of the players were solid: 3,000 watts; 4,000 watts; 5,000 watts.

Then, Young stepped into the spotlight.

“I think Juwon got something absurd like 9,000,” said Levi Brown, a 290-pound sophomore offensive lineman. “It was like watching a great white shark jump out of the water – explosive.”

Day said the number was closer to 7,000, but Brown’s point remains: Young is on another level.

“The first ‘wow’ moment you have with Juwon is in the weight room,” said Chris Jackson, a sophomore defensive back. “He came in and put up huge numbers that you don’t see too often. You see how big he is.”

Young added seven pounds to his frame and cut his body fat percentage from 17 percent to 11 percent during his time at Marshall. He benches 430 pounds, squats 545 pounds and can bench 225 pounds as many as 26 repetitions.

But he is not simply a weight room warrior. Young’s skills translate to the field, as he showed in his Marshall debut last Saturday at Charlotte. He finished with four tackles and combined on a sack with fellow junior linebacker Artis Johnson in the first quarter. Marshall held Charlotte to only 52 plays, so Young had fewer opportunities to pile up numbers than usual.

“I was amped up and ready to play,” Young said. “I was ready to get to it.”

There is no doubt about that. Young teased his return on social media in the week leading up to the game at Charlotte. A respected figure in the locker room, Young received the start at middle linebacker at his earliest possible availability. His teammates were prepared for Young to showcase what makes him such a fearsome defender.

“Juwon is a really good guy off the field; he’s a really good friend,” Brown said. “He’s a nice guy who is fun to talk to and everything. As soon as you cross that line, Juwon turns into someone else.”

Sophomore safety Malik Gant said the defense “felt the difference” of Young’s addition to a unit that has shut out its last three opponents in the first half and leads Conference USA in scoring defense. If Young wasn’t recording a statistic, he was certainly setting someone else up to succeed. Gant recorded a team-high 11 tackles.

“Having him in the middle of the defense, you could feel it,” Gant said. “It took two linemen to block him so there were open holes everywhere. On pass plays, the quarterback had no time.”

Young came to Marshall from the University of Miami, where he made five starts against top-shelf competition: Clemson, Duke, Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh and Washington State. He recorded a career-high 13 tackles against Georgia Tech, an ACC opponent. He had a team-high 10 tackles – twice as many as any other on the Hurricanes defense – in the Sun Bowl vs. Washington State.

Those are performances that foreshadowed what Young could bring to the Herd defense this season, and Young’s former teammate at Miami, Tyre Brady, has been anticipating the addition for a long time.

“He flips a switch as soon as you line up on the other side of the ball,” Brady said. “He’s a great person off the field, but once you’re on the field you don’t want to be the guy he has to tackle.”

Young started alongside Johnson and Chase Hancock at linebacker, giving Marshall one of the deepest linebacker units in the league. Frankie Hernandez, Omari Cobb and Jaquan Yulee also see significant time at linebacker, and Marshall coaches have the envious problem of juggling the playing time of a talented group.

Young’s addition only heightens the expectations for Marshall, which is off to a 4-1 start and won its Conference USA opener. But, as his teammates have witnessed in the weight room and on the field, nothing the Georgia native accomplishes will be a shock.

“We knew then and we know now that he is a great player,” Jackson said. “Saturday he showed us what we already knew.”