School is underway at Ohio State, which means the Buckeyes’ early enrollees are getting their first real taste of what it is like to be an Ohio State football player.
It’s a learning experience for all of them, so they rely on each other to get through it. They also rely on the veterans to show them the way.
Zach Harrison was one of the most coveted recruits in the nation. A 5-star defensive end from Central Ohio, Harrison was torn between Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan.
He eventually chose Ohio State, and in so doing he picked a place where freshmen arrive with immense expectations every year. For instance, the Buckeyes’ two starting defensive ends — Chase Young and Jonathon Cooper — were both 5-star prospects themselves, and the expectations were commensurate with their respective rankings.
Both Young and Cooper will help guide Harrison through the process of adapting to life as a Buckeye, but this is also a process that started well before Harrison signed.
“I talked to him,” Young said of Harrison’s recruitment. “But when I talked to him, we never really talked about [football]. We talked about Coach Johnson, but we never really talked about the football aspect too much. I would just chill with him. We’d go get a bite to eat or just chill, watch TV, stuff like that. So not really too much about football.”
While enrolling early is becoming more and more common, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. To go from high school to being immediately dropped into a college classes and a collegiate weight program can be overwhelming.
“It’s difficult, you know, because you’re going in and then you’ve got classes and weight lifting and you’re a freshman so you have to find your way and what’s going on,” Cooper said. “But I found big brothers, so I had like Tyquan [Lewis], Jalyn Holmes, Sam Hubbard, Tracy Sprinkle, my big brothers. I latched onto them. They told me how to do it. I feel like Zach Harrison is going to do that to me and the others.”
Cooper will be a senior in 2019 and Young will be a junior. As the two starters, they are also the two leaders. They helped a talented freshmen group move forward in 2018 and they have every intention of doing the same for Harrison.
“I think definitely,” Young said of he and Cooper playing a role in Harrison’s integration. “He’s coming in not knowing what’s going on. He definitely going to have to follow somebody. So he’s definitely going to have to follow me and Coop. I’ve just got to be a leader for him, take him under my wing. Anything I can do for him to speed up the process faster for him.”
Having gone through it themselves, both Young and Cooper understand where they struggled and what helped them get through their early issues.
At Ohio State, the notion of paying forward was handed down a long time ago by Woody Hayes, and players like Tyquan Lewis, Jalyn Holmes, Sam Hubbard, and Tracy Sprinkle embodied that ideal. They may have met a very young Zach Harrison in passing during recruiting, but their examples will be what Chase Young and Jonathon Cooper emulate while they are helping bring Harrison and the rest of the young defensive linemen along.
It won’t be easy for Zach Harrison, but there will be help.
“He’s walking into a place that’s going to show him love, but also going to get after him, toughen him up,” Cooper said. “From what I’ve seen, he’s a great kid, and I think he’s ready for it. I think he’s excited to come here. We’re excited to have him. I can’t wait to get in that weight room with him.”
And after the winter workouts and acclimating is done, what will Harrison bring to the Buckeyes on the football field?
“He’s going to bring speed for sure, speed off the edge,” Young said. “He definitely is a speed rusher. Big, long, lanky guy.”