Jamie Harless knows a hell of a high school prospect when he sees one.
Harless is the head coach at Lord Botetourt High School in Daleville, Virginia. It's a place that has a pretty high standing in the state.
“We've made quite a reputation for ourselves with FBS linemen,” Harless told Eleven Warriors. “Deemed OLU by some people in the state of Virginia.”
And before that, Harless coached Tarell Basham at Franklin County High School in Rocky Mount, Virginia. Later, Basham went on to star at Ohio University, where Basham won the MAC Defensive Player of the Year award in 2016 before being selected in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the New York Jets.
And now, Harless is coaching a player heading into his third year of high school who might be just as special as Basham and could take his own game to even bigger heights.
That prospect is Gunner Givens, a 6-foot-6, 275-pound offensive tackle in the 2022 class. Givens is a five-star prospect in 247Sports' first composite rankings, where he is ranked No. 19 overall, No. 2 at offensive tackle and No. 1 in Virginia.
Despite having two years left of high school ball, Givens has already been offered by 29 teams, a laundry list that includes Alabama, Baylor, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Penn State, Texas A&M, USC and his home state schools Virginia and Virginia Tech.
On Monday afternoon, Ohio State threw its hat into the ring as well (with fellow Virginian TreVeyon Henderson instantly putting in his two cents on where Givens should go to college only a minute later).
Hearing from Harless, it's easy to see why the Buckeyes – who have been in contact with Givens for several months – stepped up their recruiting efforts for the can't-miss prospect.
“Gunner is an extremely physical player,” Harless said. “He plays the game very violently, and he is a finisher. Gunner also plays with an extremely high motor. I'm not sure I can identify a weakness other than he's nowhere near where his potential ceiling is. I think he's a future NFL player who has first-round potential. I coached (Basham), and Gunner has a higher ceiling than him.”
Ohio State has done a standout job recruiting high-character players to its program of late, and Givens fits that bill as well.
“Gunner is a top-notch young man,” Harless said. “Extremely loyal, has a big heart and loves the weight room.”
Harless has known Givens for a little more than two years, dating back to Givens' freshman year when Givens transferred over from a smaller school about an hour away from Daleville. Since then, he's only gotten more impressed, even labeling the five-star with a description fitting of that rating.
“Gunner is a once-in-a-lifetime type player as far as frame and ability goes which definitely makes him unique,” Harless said.
Lord Botetourt boasts five players in the 2021 class who have FBS offers and another up-and-coming star lineman in the 2024 class (6-foot-5, 280-pounder DJ Tolliver) who Harless says “is gonna be another big-time prospect.”
Adding in Givens in the 2021 cycle, it has “made the phone ring nonstop about these guys,” Harless said. “I've had a lot of conversations about Gunner with coaches from every corner of the United States. Gunner is the first five-star recruit in our area, and that has brought a lot of media attention as well.”
What is helping Givens continue to improve that five-star ranking and become an even more polished player this early in his career is an iron-sharpens-iron approach, as he trains with good friend Zach Rice.
“What is even more unique is Zach Rice, who OSU offered as well, is a close friend of Gunner's and is less than 45 minutes away from our school,” Harless said. “He and Gunner are the top-two rated OTs in the country [on 247Sports, Rice is ranked No. 1 at OT and Givens is No. 2 OT], which makes it even more unique. ... Zach and Gunner are really close and they have worked together a lot.”
The similarities between the two offensive linemen are clear just from their recruiting profiles.
Rice weighs in at 282 pounds and is a fellow 6-foot-6 offensive lineman from Virginia – out of Liberty Christian Academy in Lynchburg – and he has a similar offer total (27) as Givens (29). You'll see a lot of the same schools on both of their lists, including Ohio State, and Rice (No. 47 overall, No. 4 offensive tackle, No. 3 Virginia) is not far behind Givens' recruiting rankings.
And like Givens, Rice is being heavily recruited by the Buckeyes.
“The success, the rich history and the offensive linemen who have come out of there (stand out about Ohio State),” Rice told Eleven Warriors after he was offered earlier this year. “And it’s just a really different atmosphere, and I truly want to be with the best. The No. 1 running back in the nation, (Henderson), is going there, and I just feel like (Greg Studrawa) wasn’t trying to pump my head up like, ‘Oh, you’re so good.’ He was honest, like, ‘We don’t offer that many people, but then again you have to work for everything you have.’”
From here on out, the Buckeyes are going to have to put in plenty of work for both Givens and Rice.