Getting Zach Harrison means so much more than just one commitment for Ohio State

Zach Harrison, Twitter

“It will continue to be our first priority to recruit Ohio football players.”

Ohio State Buckeyes new head coach Ryan Day made it clear from the moment he was named Urban Meyer’s successor in early December that he and his coaching staff would recruit in-state first and foremost. That became even more apparent when the Early Signing Period concluded on Wednesday.

Olentangy Orange high school resides just 15 miles north of Ohio Stadium. When one of the best prospects in the country and top prospect in Ohio attends that school, you’d think that it would be an easy recruitment process for the Ohio State Buckeyes. Yet, it was far from that, to say the least.

Ohio State cannot afford to miss out on such a good, five-star prospect when said player is just down the road. Up until Tuesday morning, it looked as though that was going to happen. Not only would the Buckeyes miss out on Harrison, but he was expected by many to commit to Michigan, which would make all of this even worse.

Then Tuesday morning happened. When one prominent Michigan insider switched his prediction from Michigan to Ohio State, it sent shockwaves through the recruiting world. Soon thereafter, other well-regarded recruiting analysts followed suit, flipping their prediction from the Wolverines to the Buckeyes. For months, he was expected to go to Michigan. On the eve of Wednesday’s Early Signing Period, all that changed. He was predicted to stay home now and that’s exactly what he did.

The 6-foot-6, 243-pound defensive end is not only one of the best players in his class, but it’s one of the best prospects to commit to the Buckeyes in the Urban Meyer Era.1 It just so happens that, while many thought Meyer’s departure would make Harrison want to stay away, even more, it actually had the opposite effect. Day and defensive line coach Larry Johnson were able to snatch Harrison right from the hands of their biggest rival. The pair were able to get a player that had been Ohio State’s top target throughout the entire recruiting cycle and especially after he was offered in January 2017, not only because of how talented he is, but due to Harrison residing so close to Columbus.

Momentum is key. In sports, that usually pertains to just winning games on the field. But in college athletics, that also includes recruiting as a whole. While losing four-star defensive back Jordan Battle (flipped to Bama) and four-star quarterback Dwan Mathis (flipped to Georgia) are big losses for Ohio State in the 2019 class, the fact that Day and company got 15 commitments, including Harrison, is huge. They will now look to carry that momentum into National Signing Day, which is just a couple short months away. While they don’t have much more scholarships to hand out for this class, Harrison’s commitment and the 2019 class as a whole has already made it obvious that Day and his staff aren’t messing around.

“We’re very, very excited about the future as these guys will be a foundation moving forward into the next few years,” Day said of the class thus far.

“The kids that we have, we love. We love these kids. We think the quality of the guys that we’ve signed here is excellent. So we wanted to keep them all. And so that was really important for us,” he said. “But when you look at who these kids are in the last seven months, and their loyalty, it’s amazing. You know, what happened in August and then there’s a coaching change here down the stretch — and these kids stuck with us. That means a lot to us, and we’re not going to forget that moving forward.”

Harrison not only adds one of the most dominant players in the country to this current class, but other top prospects will likely follow suit simply because of the faith that he has shown by committing to Day, Johnson, and the rest of the Buckeyes. When Day was named the successor to Urban, everyone had a good glimpse of what he could do on the field. One of the biggest question marks surrounding the new head coach was his ability to recruit, especially being able to recruit prospects from coast to coast and specifically inside Ohio’s borders much as Meyer did. The 2019 class and Harrison specifically will give future prospects plenty of confidence that they are making the right decision.

Day and his coaching staff had quite an impressive Early Signing Period. Now it’s key that they carry that momentum on the recruiting trail and into the future. Harrison had plenty of faith that would happen. Buckeye Nation should as well.

  1. Harrison is the top-ranked player to sign with Ohio State since Terrelle Pryor did so in 2008. []