Football Recruiting The Rivalry

First Battle Between Ryan Day and Jim Harbaugh Already Underway

Zach Harrison Ohio State Football Recruiting Buckeyes

You don’t have to wait until November of 2019 to see new Ohio State head coach Ryan Day and current Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh face off for the first time, because it is happening right now on the recruiting trail.

Zach Harrison is a 5-star defensive end from Lewis Center, Ohio and he is at the center of Ryan Day and Jim Harbaugh’s first significant showdown.

Harrison plays football about 15 miles away from Ohio Stadium, so the prevailing wisdom always viewed Harrison as an eventual Buckeye.

That has not actually been the case throughout Harrison’s recruitment, however, as the recruiting experts go back and forth on where they see Harrison ending up. Harrison himself even seems to waver from day to day, though he will be making his announcement known on Wednesday December 19, which is the first day of the early signing period.

Harrison is 6-foot-6, weighs 243 pounds and runs a 4.47 forty-yard dash. He is ranked the No. 1 strongside defensive end in the nation and the No. 4 player overall.

If Harrison stays in the top four and he signs with Ohio State, it would give Day a higher-ranked recruit than anybody Urban Meyer signed at OSU. That would be a pretty good start to anybody’s career.

The highest-ranked recruit of the Meyer tenure was Noah Spence, who was the No. 5 player (247Sports Composite) in 2012. Jim Harbaugh, meanwhile, landed No. 1 recruit overall Rashan Gary in 2016, and inherited Jabrill Peppers, who was the No. 3 player in 2014.

Landing Harrison would be huge for either coach based on his immense physical potential and also because it would be taking a “Plan A” guy away from the enemy.

A month ago, it looked like Harrison was headed to Michigan. Six months or so before that, most would have said Ohio State.


Of the 26 crystal ball predictions on 247Sports, 65% of them are pointed Michigan’s way, while 31% list the Buckeyes as the eventual winner of the Harrison sweepstakes. Four percent of the predictors are too torn to venture a guess one way or the other.

This isn’t the first time a new head coach has taken over and immediately stepped into an important recruiting battle.

It almost happened in late 2011 when Urban Meyer took over at Ohio State. Five-star offensive lineman Kyle Kalis out of Lakewood St. Ed had been an Ohio State commit until June, then decommitted and eventually committed to Michigan.

One of the first things Meyer did when he was hired was put a call in to Kalis, who said “Thanks, but no thanks.” That battle was over before it began for Meyer, and it has been pretty much downhill for Michigan in The Rivalry ever since.

When Jim Harbaugh took over for Brady Hoke, he stepped into a recruiting battle for Detroit running back Mike Weber. Weber had been committed to Michigan for most of the 2014 season, but saw the Hoke writing on the wall and decommitted. Following OSU’s 59-0 Big Ten Championship Game over Wisconsin, Weber committed to the Buckeyes.

And then the battle really began.

Even on the night before Signing Day that year, it looked like Weber was going to flip back to Michigan. Obviously that never happened, and Weber gave Urban Meyer his first of many wins over Jim Harbaugh.

Now, four years later, Ryan Day is looking for that first victory as well.

For Harrison, he is just looking for a home that feels right to him. And one that can help him become the best version of himself, like Ohio State has done with Nick and Joey Bosa, and Michigan has done with Rashan Gary.

For the coaches fighting for his signature, however, this is the first battle in the Day-Harbaugh Era and neither head coach wants to start out with a loss.

Harrison is a local player, and for Ohio State to lose him would be a kick to the gut for a program that expects to keep the best players at home.

If Michigan can come into the Columbus area and land a commitment from the highest-ranked Ohio prospect since Ted Ginn in 2004, that would be a significant development and could give Jim Harbaugh his first bit of momentum in this rivalry since he arrived.

If Harrison ends up a Buckeye, however, then what was looking like a positive development for Michigan will once again fade down the stretch, just like many of their seasons have done over the years.

It’s unfair to Harrison to paint this as being larger than just one player’s decision, but this is an opportunity for each coach to make their first major statement in a brand new chapter of a century-old rivalry.

No pressure, guys.

This just happens to be the most important thing ever right at this moment.

5 Responses

  1. Harrison growing up next to the Shoe ALSO knows very well how Buckeye Nation rabid fan base can also be brutal to player underperforming (Prince, Barrett, Jones). He has said on at least one or more occasions that he 1) doesn’t like the recruiting process attention and 2) is choosing between the coaching value of master L. Johnson prepping him for the NFL vs the value of “getting away from home” to see a different perspective. This sounds like Jimmy “sleepover” Harbaugh or Jimmy “the con artist” Franklin attempt to brainwash Harrison out of Columbus using the “pressure” of playing at home around friends and the associated hype. Unless he knows something that the rest of us don’t about LJ, my guess he wants to avoid all of that hype and home town attention.

  2. I have no clue why a kid from Columbus, who has a Buckeye offer would not take it, and why would they even consider *ichigan??!? In my mind growing up in Ohio I cannot even fathom spurning Buckeyes for the enemy. Last year it was Jackson Carmen going to Clemson. Just don’t get it.

  3. Really should boil down to whether Larry Johnson stays on the Buckeye staff. His track record of coaching up talent on the D Line (Hubbard, Young, Bosa, Cooper, Dre’mont…) measures favorably against how Michigan doesn’t seem to do much to improve the latent talents of their big time d linemen (see Gary)

    1. Or “Mirage Lose-o-vich”. I agree if Larry Johnson can be convinced to stay the odds for getting Harrison go way up.

  4. Hmm Noah Spence Rashan Gary and Peppers? That’s a soft “pass” lol

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