Home Stretch: Assessing the Zach Harrison Recruitment and the Level of Concern Among the Ohio State Fanbase

By Andrew Ellis on July 12, 2018 at 10:35 am
Five-star defensive end Zach Harrison is hoping for an August decision.

Overall, the Class of 2019 seems to be a bit down when compared to some of the other, more recent groups. The Buckeyes aren't going to sign five five-star prospects like they did in 2017 and it'll be a challenge living up to last year's No. 2 ranking as well. 

The Ohio State coaching staff has obviously done a phenomenal job on the trail, and this year's class has seen a number of the top targets come off the board relatively early in the process; much of which can be attributed to the new recruiting calendar. 

The top prospects in the country tend to reside in the Southeast, The Lone Star State, California, and within the state of Florida. Ohio has certainly had its share of talented players over the years, but the state's Class of 2019 is special one – at least at the very top – when you consider that the No. 1 prospect in America (per 247 Sports) resides less than 20 miles from Ohio Stadium. 

But questions definitely seem to remain in the recruitment of Zach Harrison, and though the five-star defensive end is planning to decide in the next month, there is a slight sense of concern permeating from the Ohio State fanbase.

The Lewis Center star is down to three schools, but is that sense of nervousness necessary for Buckeye fans? 

The 247 Sports crystal ball shows 17 submissions for Harrison, and 16 of those are in favor of Ohio State. The lone Michigan pick was submitted this week – from a Wolverine writer – and the explanation of the pick cited Harrison's relationship with current players in Ann Arbor as well as some of the 2019 commits. The article also used the word "source" upwards of 12 times, which is always amusing. 

But in all seriousness, the memory of Jackson Carman siding with Clemson this past December is probably still fresh in many of our minds. Ohio State was long thought to be the favorite even though the five-star was taking visits all over the country and dragging his recruitment out until the early signing period.

This would be a far more catastrophic loss for a couple of reasons. For starters, if it''s not going to be Ohio State then Zach Harrision will either be in Ann Arbor or State College. Additionally, there's not a similar (or even better) talent that Ohio State could move onto. Nicholas Petit-Frere isn't walking through that door.

Aside from being the state's top player and having five little stars next to his name, the comparisons with Carman are few and far between. It's well known that Zach Harrison isn't the biggest fan of the recruiting process. He's not much of a talker, isn't a social media diva, and overall he just seems to be much more introverted about the whole saga. 

Earlier this month, he was in Texas for The Opening finals and the media got some rare comments from the 6-foot-5.5, 244-pounder who had just recorded a sub 4.5-second time in the 40-yard dash

Some were quite positive:

"Coach J is the best defensive line coach in college football, if not college football history," Harrison said. "So that's a big thing for me. I have a good relationship with him. He talks to my mom a lot and my family, which is important to me. I like Coach J. [Ohio State is] already proven. Coach J is a big reason why I’d go there, it’s my hometown school. Those are the reasons [to pick the Buckeyes], pretty much.”

Some other quotes have caused a bit of an uneasy feeling:

"There are positives and negatives [of being from Columbus],” Harrison said. “The positives are that I'd be the hometown hero. Everybody loves Ohio State. Who is not a Buckeye that lives 20 minutes from Ohio State? It’s also negative because sometimes you just wanna get away from home and be on your own a little bit. When your parents are 20 minutes away, that's kind of hard to do."

“I love coach [Al] Washington. He’s a good dude and a big family man,” Harrison said. “The education is great there. The players, I love them. They’re building something special up there. I like the strength staff there. I like coach [Jim] Harbaugh, I think he’s a good dude.”

Harrison's upside may be higher than any prospect in America. He has an impressive frame and was one of the fastest players at The Opening – regardless of position – but does still need to put it all together as a defensive end. His affinity for all things Larry Johnson has been well-documented, and Ohio State's defensive line coach likely holds the key to this recruitment.

He's made multiple trips to campus to meet and work out with Johnson, and some of those have even been of the private variety, taking place before Ohio State's summer camp events. There's not a coach in America who's had more success in developing his talent in the trenches and preparing them for the next level.

However, Harrison's relationship with several Michigan pledges – and linebackers coach Al Washington – cannot be ignored. The Wolverines run a bit of a unique defense which often utilizes a hybrid linebacker/pass rusher, but it is worth nothing that the 2019 class already has three commitments at defensive end. Will that matter at all in this recruitment? That is anyone's guess. 

And are we completely overlooking Penn State in this one? The general thought was that the Nittany Lions had been the No. 2 team for some time. Harrison's recent visit to Michigan and subsequent comments at The Opening have brought the Wolverines to the forefront, but James Franklin may be the head coach with the best relationship here. 

As Harrison's recruitment appears to be winding down, I wouldn't expect a whole lot of comments from the five-star. That's pretty much been par for the course, so it wouldn't be much of a surprise at all. Harrison's birthday is Aug. 14 and that's long been rumored as potential commitment date, albeit not set in stone by any means. 

Is there a chance things get pushed back a little bit? That certainly seems possible for a kid who genuinely seems a bit torn at the moment. However, it may also be unlikely for someone who doesn't seem too fond of this whole process. 

Right now there are no other visits planned, but you can bet Michigan will be trying to get him back in town for the July 28 "Barbecue at the Big House." We'll all be in wait-and-see mode for the rest of the month and potentially through part of August. 

Harrison is a kid who may not even plan some big ceremonious event for his commitment. It would hardly be a surprise if he just showed up at a school one morning and made his intentions known with very little fanfare. 

Larry Johnson has been a key figure in this recruitment and proximity to home is clearly in the Buckeyes' favor, but this one seems like anything but a done deal at the moment. Ohio State fans are going to have to sweat things out for another month or so as Zach Harrison and his family continue to weigh the pros and cons of each Big Ten power.

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