After months of writing about Ohio State football from April through July, when the media finally gets a chance to speak with head coach Urban Meyer, the question of which young players are stepping up will always be asked.
That was the case again this week when Meyer was asked if there were any player or position group that has made a jump, and as he usually does after just a few practices, he said it was too early to pick out any particular players.
After about 15 minutes of answering other questions, however, Meyer did mention one particular player who has made an early mark.
“The guy that’s kind of stepped up a little bit is Jaylen Harris from Cleveland,” Meyer said. “He’s kind of a playmaker, but he’s still a very immature player, which is not a negative yet. It will be if I’m still saying that ten days from now. But he’s shown that he’s got the skillset to play here, no doubt. It’s how soon can you learn the offense and fight through injuries, et cetera.”
Ohio State signed three wide receivers in the 2017 class — 5-star prospect Trevon Grimes, 3-star prospect Ellijah Gardiner, and the 4-star prospect Harris right between them.
Any time a program signs a 5-star receiver, there is going to be a buzz around him, and that is the case for Grimes. Harris, meanwhile, was your typical 4-star receiver that schools like Ohio State sign every year.
Except he might not be all that typical.
The Buckeyes haven’t had their first scrimmage yet — that comes Saturday, but what Harris has shown in the first few practices has certainly earned some notice.
“Jaylen Harris, he is working,” said sophomore receiver Binjimen Victor. “He’s working. I love him. He asks me for help and I help him. I tell him a few pointers and then we keep going.”
The key point in what Victor had to say was that Harris keeps working. It’s easy to keep working now, but the real tests are about to come, and that is when the Buckeyes will have a better idea of what they have in any young player.
“It’s through the course of practice,” receivers coach Zach Smith explained. “If he’s tough, if he’s going to fight through, if he’s going to finish. When he’s dead tired, is he still going to go hard and make a play. And that’s when you know. In the fourth quarter on third-and-8, what guy is going to go get open and go get the football and make a play and get a first down.”
Harris obviously isn’t to that point yet, but this is the first few steps in getting him there. The good news for the Ohio State offense is that Harris has the tools to get the job done.
“Jaylen is a really talented kid,” Smith said. “I mean he’s really talented. He’s got to fight through practice. It’s a tough jump, high school to college, especially at a program like this at this level. So he’s adjusting to it. He struggles every now and then, but every now and then he shows some flashes. It’s going to be a matter of how he progresses through camp whether he plays or not.”