Zach Harrison's Commitment Gives Ryan Day the Momentum He Needs to Lock Down the State of Ohio in Recruiting

By David Regimbal on December 20, 2018 at 1:30 pm
5-Star defensive end Zach Harris, good at football
5-Star defensive end Zach Harrison, good at football | Eleven Warriors

"To the high school coaches in Ohio, we have the best coaches and some of the best high school programs in America... It will continue to be our first priority to recruit Ohio football players."

That was Ryan Day in his introductory press conference two weeks ago. While he was tabbed the 25th head coach of the Ohio State football team, he intentionally emphasized the importance he and his staff will place on recruiting the Buckeyes' home-grown talent.

Over the course of the next two weeks, Day made good on his promise by securing the commitment of 5-star defensive end Zach Harrison.

Ranked the No. 1 overall prospect in Ohio, the No. 4 prospect nationally and the country's highest-rated strong-side defensive end, Harrison was always Ohio State's top target for the 2019 cycle. The same could be said for a number of schools, as he boasted offers from the likes of Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Notre Dame and a host of other college football powerhouses.

It's easy to see why Harrison was so highly recruited. The 6'5.5", 243-pound pass rusher has the strength of a traditional defensive end but the high-end speed of most blue-chip running backs.

But the reserved playmaker wanted to stay in the Midwest and attend a school with high academic standards, so he narrowed his list to Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State.

The Buckeyes were the presumed favorite early, but as the recruiting cycle wore on, the Wolverines and Nittany Lions took turns with the lead. The uncertainty of Ohio State's coaching situation made losing Harrison an unsettling possibility.

But things changed when Ohio State made Day its head coach, who made up months of lost ground to capture the crown jewel of the Buckeyes' 2019 recruiting class.

It was an important pledge not just for Harrison's impact on the field, but for the momentum it gave Day on the in-state recruiting front.

Since Meyer took over in 2012, Ohio State was able to secure the state's top prospect in all but two recruiting cycles (2016 with Tommy Kraemer and last year with Jackson Carman). Also during that stretch, the Buckeyes landed exactly half (35-of-70) of the top-rated Ohio players overall.

Meyer's approach to recruiting was certainly more national than any coach in Ohio State history, but he still knew the importance of recruiting in his back yard.

Day is hoping to continue that strategy, and he's off to a great start. On Wednesday the Buckeyes landed five of the top 10 Ohio players by signing Harrison, 4-star linebackers Cade Stover and Tommy Eichenberg, 4-star defensive end Noah Potter and 4-star offensive tackle Ryan Jacoby.

Looking forward to next year, Day and the Buckeyes are in the driver's seat for Ohio's top talent.

They already have a verbal pledge from Ohio's top player in Paris Johnson Jr., but as is the situation with any coaching change, the recruiting process isn't over for the 5-star offensive tackle.

But for the state's other top five players, Ohio State is either the unanimous projection or the heavy favorite to land 4-stars Darrion Henry (defensive end), Michael Drennen (all-purpose back), Jaheim Thomas (linebacker) and DeaMonte Trayanum, according to 247 Sports' Crystal Ball predictions.

Landing these in-state targets will remain at the top of Day's priority list during the 2020 recruiting cycle. 

"Every young football player in the state of Ohio should dream about one day becoming a Buckeye," Day said two weeks ago. "It's our staff's responsibility to make sure we recruit them at the highest level."

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