The Hurry-Up: With Visits Set, Five-star Cornerback AJ Harris Monitoring How Ohio State's Slow Start Defensively Shakes out Going Forward

By Garrick Hodge on September 22, 2021 at 5:30 pm
AJ Harris

Flashing back to earlier this summer, five-star phenom cornerback AJ Harris told Eleven Warriors at The Opening Invitational he would consider announcing his commitment by the end of July. Since then, Harris has taken a deep breath and slowed down his timeline.

In case you missed it from Tuesday’s Hurry-Up, Harris, the 13th-rated prospect and the third-rated cornerback in the 2023 class per 247Sports’ composite rankings, trimmed his top school list down from 13 to seven. Those schools consisted of Ohio State, Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, LSU, North Carolina and Notre Dame. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound cornerback also set a commitment date on his birthday, Jan. 11, 2022.

“He has always been ready to go sooner rather than later,” his father, Daniel Harris, told Eleven Warriors Wednesday afternoon. “But then what happened is, his birthday is a good time. Plus, by that point of the year, you’ll have an idea of who’s getting ready to (make a) change, what’s going on with the defensive backs at all of the schools that he’s interested in, all of the 2022 DBs should be locked in by that point. So he can see the big and more clear picture.” 

At this point, the Harris family has only three visits from his top seven locked in: Oct. 9 at Ohio State, Oct. 16 at Georgia and Oct. 30 at Clemson. Harris’ visit to Columbus was rescheduled from Sept. 11 where they couldn’t make it in time for a Noon kickoff. Despite a noon kickoff set for the Maryland game on Oct. 9, Harris shouldn’t have a problem making it to Columbus because Glenwood High School (Phenix City, Alabama) plays on a Thursday night that week.

While only three visits are locked in, the Harris family hopes to get to at least one of LSU or North Carolina’s games. They’d also like to attend Notre Dame’s game against USC on Oct. 23, but they’re not optimistic about the chances considering the nearest hotel available to South Bend for that weekend is about an hour away. Of course, Alabama is a big-time contender for Harris and the family is considering attending this weekend's game against Southern Miss. Daniel Harris also knows Alabama is the closest school in proximity to the family's residence and there won't be a problem getting there should they need to visit again.  

With visit plans tentatively set, Harris is ready to make one final tour of his prospective schools. Although the schools he’s truly directing the majority of his attention toward might really be fewer than the seven he put out on social media. 

“His mother and I ask him every week, alright AJ, who’s one, two and three?,” Daniel Harris said. “And we see if it wavers every week. Right now, it’s not wavering that much, so the picture is becoming pretty clear.”

Nevertheless, AJ will be monitoring two big factors when considering each institution: How he can be developed by each program and the relationship he builds with the coaching staff. The elder Harris essentially admitted there is no wrong answer on the development angle from the top seven, highlighting specifically LSU and OSU under Kerry Coombs.   

As for relationship building, the elder Harris said a lot of recruiters nationwide pitch what their school and scheme can do for AJ, but don’t necessarily take the time to know him.

“He’s big on relationships,” Daniel Harris said. “Like, who is he going to feel comfortable with on the day he fails a test or has a shitty practice? Who does he feel comfortable with on that day?” 

Where Ohio State’s concerned, no one on the coaching staff is closer to the Harris family than Coombs. Of course, by now everyone knows the elephant in the room surrounding the much-maligned defensive coordinator. Ryan Day has been displeased by the defense’s porous start to the 2021 campaign and took play calling duties away from Coombs last weekend and gave them to defensive backs coach Matt Barnes, which seems to be the plan going forward until further notice. What will that mean for Coombs’ future at Ohio State? The Harris family isn’t necessarily concerned about the slow start to OSU’s defense, but the big picture and Coombs’ future definitely has their undivided attention.   

“Coach Coombs has done an outstanding job of recruiting AJ,” Daniel Harris said. “I told him back in August, ‘Has AJ and coach Barnes really established a rapport?’ He said, ‘I don’t know if they talk.’ I had already talked to AJ and knew that they didn’t. I was like, ‘Coach, you probably need to start having coach Barnes talk with AJ more as well.’” 

The elder Harris pointed out when his son interacts with a school, he’s looking along the lines of how a running backs or linebackers coach also engage with him, because they’re not naive to the business of big-time college football. 

“We already get it, we get staffs are going to turn over,” Daniel Harris said. “That’s not a big deal. But who else in the room is he comfortable with? He’s really big on how other coaches on the staff engage him when we go on visits. Right now, is it a problem if coach Coombs was to leave? Yeah, I would say so. Because again in the relationship piece, he ain’t really talking with coach Barnes that often. Whenever he talks to coach Day, it’s with coach Coombs, so it ain’t like he has a direct line to coach Day. It will play somewhat of a role. 

“I would be remiss if I didn’t say, ‘OK, if this thing goes south, are they going to keep him in house?’ One thing I hate to say, and I heard a couple of DB coaches say it best: sometimes they stay DB coaches because when you go up to take the coordinator job, there’s no demotion, you’re only promoting yourself out. So, if it doesn’t work as a defensive coordinator, you’re usually leaving. But we know that coach Coombs has such a great relationship with Ohio State that it could be possible, yeah, they may bring in a new defensive coordinator and he may go backwards. Which would be great for us if he decides to go back down to DB coach.”  

OSU ideally would like to sign two cornerbacks in 2023, with AJ Harris being atop their wish list.

Considering Harris has already wanted to commit sooner rather than later, he may move up his commitment date to Dec. 13 on his mother’s birthday if he feels comfortable making a decision after the completion of his visits.

Either way, now comes the waiting game. 

OSU offers Hayes

A rising linebacker in the class of 2024 has appeared on Ohio State’s radar. Adarius Hayes, a four-star Florida native, announced that OSU running backs coach Tony Alford had presented him with an offer Tuesday evening. 

While 247Sports has only ranked 100 class of 2024 prospects, Hayes slots in as the 73rd-best prospect in the cycle and the sixth-best linebacker. He becomes the eighth player to pick up an offer from OSU in the 2024 class and the second linebacker along with Kyngstonn Viliamu-Asa

Greene trying to reschedule visit

Priority 2022 Ohio State offensive line target Earnest Greene and several other high school teammates at St. John Bosco (Bellflower, California) planned on attending OSU’s home opener against Oregon on Sept. 11. Unfortunately for the West Coast crew, St. John Bosco’s game finished late, causing Greene and company to miss their flight to Columbus. 

The 6-foot-4, 330-pound four-star offensive lineman told 247Sports this week he hopes to reschedule his visit, eyeing the Buckeyes’ contest against Maryland on Oct. 9. Considering that game is a noon kick, Greene is also considering OSU’s game against Michigan State on Nov. 20. 

“I’m trying to reschedule but the problem is, Ohio State plays a lot of early games on Saturday,” Greene told 247Sports. “So I’m trying to get out there but it’s hard and I don’t want to set something up and have the same issue again, where our game ends late and we can’t catch our flight.” 

Greene, who recently visited Georgia and hopes to visit USC, Texas and Oklahoma, plans to announce his college commitment in January at the All-American Bowl.

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