Five-Star 2015 Running Back Damien Harris Talks Recruitment

By Jeremy Birmingham on June 13, 2014 at 1:05p

It was mid-May, and Damien Harris was doing what Damien Harris does best: dominating on the football field. Sure, today it was only during his high school's spring football game, but three carries for 170-plus yards and three touchdowns is impressive in a video game, let alone against real competition on a real football field. Just another day at the office for the nation's top-ranked running back. 

What isn't widely known about that Spring Game performance is that Harris did it with an ailing elbow that required surgery three days later. That elbow surgery forced him to hold out during Nike's Football Training Camp in Columbus, Ohio on June 1st, although he did make the trip north to support his teammate, Aaron Sipple. What you may not know about Harris is that despite being the country's top-ranked running back, is that he's the type of guy to make a three-hour drive to watch a teammate compete. It's the person he is off the field as much as the player he is on it that makes him so widely recruited. 

Ohio State offered Damien Harris November 5th, 2012. If he were to become a Buckeye come February 2015, it would be as a result of nearly two-and-a-half years of recruiting, two-plus years of relationship building. It's that relationship that has given Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes another shot to land the nation's top running back after he re-opened his recruitment this past January.

"It's just the relationship I've built with the coaches (at Ohio State,)" Harris said of why the Buckeyes have maintained a spot in his top schools since last summer. "I mean, its everything about Ohio State, but I definitely have a special relationship with them."

The relationship with Ohio State is centered around Urban Meyer. Harris says that he and Meyer don't discuss much football at all during their regular conversations. 

"Every time I get on campus, we talk about life after football," the 5-foot-11, 205-pound speedster said about his relationship with the Buckeyes' head coach. "(We talk) about having something to fall back on."

Harris has also begun to develop a steady relationship with Justin Hilliard, who's been on college campuses all over the country this spring. Hilliard, the nation's top outside linebacker from Cincinnati St. Xavier High School, has a number of schools on his list that mirror Harris'.

"I've gotten to know (Justin) pretty well," Harris said of the Cincinnati star. "We're always talking about which schools we like and what we have in common as far as interests. Whenever we've met things just clicked. We'd be great friends off the field."

Justin Hilliard and Damien Harris in Columbus

As the expression goes, Hilliard and Harris are veritable "birds of a feather." Two elite high school football prospects uniting over shared interests but also over shared struggles that come with the unexpected fame and publicity of being a top-ranked athlete in today's social media driven, 24-hour news-cycle-world. To put it bluntly, it's not something any random person can relate to. 

"Average friends don't understand what we go through on a daily basis," he said of the constant phone calls, text messages, emails, and more. "It's good to develop a friendship with someone that can understand what it's like."

Hilliard, like Harris, is currently uncommitted and is still searching for the right fit for his talents. There are many highly-touted players Harris has come to know during his recruitment who've already selected their school and they generally have one thing in common: they're working hard to convince Harris their school is the right one for him. It's something he understands well, because he was active as a recruiter when he was a verbal commitment to the University of Michigan.

"Recruiting is everywhere," Harris said laughing. "I used to do it myself when I was committed to Michigan. Commits are always talking to other players, trying to get them to come on visits and tell you how great things would be if you joined their class."

Harris admits freely that while he's not going to base his entire decision on where any one other player is going to school, the lure of playing with other great players is a big draw.

"I'd love to play on a team full of great recruits," he says. "I'd love to try and build a great class (somewhere.)"

In early July, Harris and his surgically repaired elbow will get back to work on football and in relationship-building when he heads west to Oregon for Nike's The Opening. It's an event he's been looking forward to.

"I'll definitely be ready for The Opening," Harris said, referencing his elbow. "I'm getting a lot of my range of motion back and I'm back running. I'm lifting a little bit and catching the football. I love the competition (of these camps) and I love competing with the best players in the country. I definitely love both those aspects and the swag of the camp and the experience that comes with it."

Competition is everywhere, and Harris knows that when he gets to college, he's going to be competing for playing time no matter what.  He contends that whether or not his recruiting class has another running back in it doesn't matter...that much.

"It does (matter) and it doesn't," he said when asked if another running back commitment will put any schools behind the pack. "I don't mind coming and trying to compete for my spot, but I'd still like to be the only back in my class. I mean, if I have to go in and win a spot, I will have no problem with that whatsoever."

Harris announced his top eight schools via Twitter just about a week ago, but he's already looking to narrow down his list a bit more. While he doesn't have any specific plans for the summer visit-wise, he does know when he wants to cut things down. After that, a decision is liable to come at any time.

"I will cut my list to five after the summer," the Madison South High School star said. "I haven't planned out many visits yet, and I don't know if I will make it Ohio State for Friday Night Lights or not, but I'm going to try and visit on June 17th. I'm not sure (when I'll decide), I just know it will be after the season for sure."


Comments Show All Comments

Silver Bullet 10's picture

9th or 10th visit to Ohio State...

+6 HS
mphillips87's picture

Quick, everyone tweet him and tell him to commit to Buckeye Nation! Nothing sways recruits like twitter

+28 HS
Go1Bucks's picture

s a r c a s m 

Go Bucks!

+1 HS
BroJim's picture

Harris is a must get in my opinion.

I season my simple food with hunger

+1 HS
AJBor41's picture

I read that a lot, but I don't understand it. What does "must get" mean to you? Without him the class is a bust, regardless of who else is in? Just curious.

+5 HS
BroJim's picture

Like you point out, it's different for different people. No, the class wont be a bust if we dont get him. Must get, for me, is a level of desire. I wouldnt put too much thinking in to it, there are far more critical things to do/think about.

I season my simple food with hunger

+3 HS
AJBor41's picture

Very true. I just see the phrase on here a lot and wonder what it means to people.

chemicalwaste's picture

This class would look so much better with Damien and his friend committed. Seems like the bucks are definitely in the thick of things for these two.

+5 HS
bethesdabuck's picture

Great work, Jeremy. Thanks for the article. 2 quick questions:

1. How serious of a contender is Notre Dame for Harris? 

2. Are you confident that a potential LJ Scott commitment will not affect Harris?

+1 HS
Shangheyed's picture

Would be great to have RB set for the next 4 yrs.... he will benefit from the competition, playing against top talent and in a high powered run based spread... his numbers will look awesome. 

+1 HS
JohnnyKozmo's picture

If this kid is as advertised-the RB position will be set for 3yrs

Pain don't hurt-Dalton

gumtape's picture

Oh the sweet wolverine tears would be delicious...


High and tight boo boo

+13 HS
chemicalwaste's picture

It would really piss off _ichigan and Brady Joke if they announced their commitment to "Ohio" whilst donning OSU hats.

+2 HS
NH-IO's picture

I feel that Damien taking so many visits to OSU is a definitely a good sign.  An Omen, if you will.  The fact that Damien has made such good friends with Hilliard?  That's an Omen II.


Too easy?

+15 HS
WhySoSerious's picture

it's all for you Damien. 


Like the ball in the stands, we balls out

+12 HS
jaxbuckeye's picture

I haven't wanted a recruit this much since Liam McCullough.

+20 HS
jaxbuckeye's picture

Seriously though, I really want Harris.  He would be INCREDIBLE in this offense.  Unstoppable.  I'm talking Heisman and NC good!  The thought of him and Scott being our RBs is amazing!!!!!!  Come on Urbs!

+2 HS
chemicalwaste's picture

Easy now. Steady...

+8 HS
jaxbuckeye's picture

I have vowed to remain positive and always speak in hyperbole.  I don't want to EVER be the subject of an article.

+14 HS
chemicalwaste's picture

Hey, good enough for me. Carry on.

+3 HS
gumtape's picture


High and tight boo boo

+37 HS
Rogabone's picture


"Who is that madman?" the new arrival asked St. Peter.

"That's God," St. Peter replied. "But he thinks he's Woody Hayes."

+15 HS
GoBucksOSU's picture

I just burst out laughing after seeing that.

+4 HS
bodast67's picture





     " I hope when I die, I die laughing"...                

+8 HS
Silver_bullet_tex's picture

This kind of makes me want some cheez-its.

+7 HS
SilverBullet-98's picture

Give me Hilliard, Harris and all the rest is GRAVY!!!!!

Just have to survive the "IrishInvasion" camp where ND will put on the pressure knowing if he doesn't commit then he is must likely a BUCKEYE!!!!

Hilliard/Harris in Scarlet n Gray '15 all the way!

"The Past Builds the Future"

Max Power's picture

It's a good sign that Harris and Hilliard are hitting it off so well. Hopefully, Hilliard commits (which it seems to be trending that way) and that will be another positive factor is Damien's recruitment. His skill set would fit our offense perfectly- good vision and breakaway speed to say the least! Of all the skill players in this class, Damien Harris is the player I am most excited about. Really hope we can land this kid!

His comment about, in less words, "caring but not caring" about another RB commiting in his class, worries me. Harris stated that he wont commit until after the season, but how confident is Urban and company that they will be able to reel him in? LJ Scott seems to have renewed interest in the Bucks and having another "big back" on the roster would be great. I have a feeling that with Brionte Dunn or Warren Ball may seek PT elsewhere once carries become hard to come by, leaving EzE and Curtis Samuel as the future OSU backfield. Not a dilemma by any means but they arent power backs. I would hate to see OSU miss out on LJ Scott because they were waiting on Harris, if Harris chooses another school that is. If we can only sign one back, I hope its Harris but the perfect scenario would be landing both him and Scott.

2016 looks like its a strong RB class. Are we able to take a gamble on waiting for Harris if it means we strike out on a true RB this year? We didnt land a RB in '14, but Urban seems high on Curtis Samuel, filling last years need at the position.

CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

Great article!  Two great players.  I sure hope that the Bucks get them.  They look like two stars that seem like they have good heads on their shoulders!

Go Bucks!!

+1 HS
theopulas's picture

nice.....if only this was real.....


Silver Bullet 10's picture

The Next Great Buckeye Has Arrvied*********

+1 HS
osubuckeye4life's picture

Sounds like a great young man.

I hope if Hilliard picks tOSU, this bodes well for Harris coming in as well.