The Hurry-Up: Najee Story Needs Bounceback Senior Season, Jahzion Harris Looks to Get Back to Ohio State, Ryan Day Impressed by Armani Winfield

By Zack Carpenter on February 20, 2020 at 6:30 pm
Najee Story
Najee Story

The Hurry-Up is your nightly dose of updates from the Ohio State football recruiting trail, keeping tabs on the latest from commits and targets from around the country.

Over the last week-and-a-half, we have detailed several key defensive linemen to spotlight in different Hurry-Ups – Landon Jackson, Marcus Bradley, Monkell Goodwine

Today, here’s a look at a couple more:

Najee Story

Story has been one of the most interesting players to follow in the 2021 cycle, as the Solon (Ohio) High School four-star defensive end was given an early offer by the Buckeyes in January 2019. It can be dangerous for Ohio State to offer in-state prospects too early, and there was added risk involved since the offer came after Story broke two bones in his leg midway through his sophomore season.

Ever since that injury, Story admitted to Eleven Warriors that the injury has "definitely been a challenge. I’m still strengthening it, trying to get it up to full strength."

This past June, after his sophomore season, Story camped with the Buckeyes, and he started gaining back his confidence, weight and speed. But then he had an up-and-down junior season where he didn't show the same production he had previously. 

“He had a long rehab from the surgery and getting back to his normal ability was slow his junior year,” Solon head coach Jim McQuaide told Eleven Warriors. 

Since June 26, Story’s ranking has steadily dropped (he now sits as the No. 279-ranked player in the 2021 class and No. 17 at strongside defensive end), and his recruitment to Ohio State has also dropped off.

"I wouldn’t say (the injury) has made a huge impact (on my recruitment), but it definitely made an impact with some colleges lessening their interest," Story said. 

Story said it had been "a while" since he had spoken with the Buckeye coaches until a phone call with Larry Johnson on Tuesday afternoon. 

"He just talked to me about their interest level and that he’s still watching out for me," Story said. "He wants to see how my offseason goes and to stay in contact with him."

Going forward, it will be crucial for Story to have a successful spring, summer and senior season, not just for his recruitment to Ohio State but also so that he can show what he can do as a player. 

"It’s extremely important because I feel like I haven’t played my best football yet, and if I have an excellent off-season it should lead to a great year on the field," Story said.

So far, McQuaide believes it's off to a good start. 

“He is a young guy with great potential and has had the best eight weeks of his career this offseason getting back ready for a great senior year,” McQuaide said. “Najee is a pretty calm, low-key guy who works very hard in school with a great family.  

“The academics of his college choice is very important to all of them. I think the upside of his tremendous potential attracted schools from all over the country. Now, everyone seems to be waiting to see if he is back to normal this season, which we have no reason to believe he will not be.”

Story says that he is looking to get back to Columbus for a spring practice and possibly the spring game. 

Someone else to monitor, regarding Story's recruitment, will be Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker. One of the Spartans' strategies in the past was to come into Ohio and snag some of the state's under-recruited players, or players that the Buckeyes wound up passing on. 

Tucker, a Cleveland native, has made it clear that one of his biggest goals is to get back into the state of Ohio. Tucker told MLive's Matt Wenzel, “I still have recruiting ties in Ohio, and Ohio’s going to be an important place for us to recruit. We’re going to recruit very, very hard in Ohio. … We’re going to be very aggressive in there and use the relationships that we do have.”

I don't have any sources indicating Tucker is targeting Story right now, and Story says that he has not had any contact with Tucker as of Thursday afternoon.

When it's an in-state prospect that Ohio State truly wants and puts in its full effort to recruit, Michigan State is rarely going to beat them out, if ever, under Ryan Day's "our foundation is Ohio" recruiting strategy. 

But if Ohio State does end up passing on Story, I do believe Story could be a perfect candidate for Tucker to target, especially adding in the fact that Solon High School is in Tucker's old backyard, just 20 miles from Cleveland. 

Story doesn't have a scholarship offer from Michigan State yet, but it's certainly something interesting to keep an eye on moving forward.

Jahzion Harris

Harris is someone we have rarely talked about in Hurry-Ups, and this update will be brief as well. 

Ranked as the No. 14 weakside defensive end in the country and ranked as New York’s top-ranked prospect, Harris has not been back to Columbus since June 2018, the summer after his freshman year. 

The 6-foot-4, 215-pound junior at Erasmus Hall has good connections through his high school head coach Danny Landberg, who has sent three other Erasmus Hall players to Ohio State: Curtis Samuel, Jahsen Wint and Matthew Jones. 

Harris’ recruitment has slowed down, however, and it doesn’t sound like he has especially strong relationships with the Ohio State coaching staff. Harris is looking to visit Columbus again this spring, in addition to visits to LSU and Texas A&M.

Winfield “would be a great fit”

Lewisville (Texas) High School Class of 2022 wide receiver Armani Winfield – no relation to Antoine Winfield – had been dreaming of an offer from Ohio State for years, ever since watching Braxton Miller star for the Buckeyes. 

"Ohio State was my dream school. ... I just loved Ohio football," Winfield told Eleven Warriors. 

Winfield, a 6-foot-2, 180-pound sophomore ranked as 247Sports’ No. 10-ranked receiver, No. 53 overall player and No. 5 player in Texas for the class of 2022, got that offer from Ohio State in late January.

“Coach Day came down and offered him,” Lewisville head coach Michael Odle told Eleven Warriors. “They were able to watch Armani work out when they visited and told me that they were offering, and I let Armani know while he was there. He was very excited.”

After Day watched Winfield’s film, all he needed was an in-person visit to see that an offer to Winfield was well-warranted. 

“OSU offered because he is explosive, a great route-runner, mature for his age and doesn’t back down from competition,” Odle said. “High-character kid that excels in the classroom as well as on the field. He would be a great fit into the OSU program as a tall, strong but explosive WR.” 

Getting Winfield to campus will be one of the next steps for the Buckeyes, and Winfield says that trip will happen.

"I am planning to visit (Ohio State) this summer. I am looking forward to meeting the coaches," Winfield said. "It’s very important because I am (trying) to get to know the coaches and learn about the school. I do not have any planned dates. However, it will be this summer."

Winfield has taken multiple visits to Big 12 and SEC schools that are closer to the Dallas area – notably Oklahoma, TCU, Texas A&M and Texas – and LSU has shown a lot of interest. 

"I have visited OU and Texas A&M several times, where I am getting to know the coaching staff and school," Winfield said. "Right now, I am close to all the coaches as I find out which school is best for me."

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