Defensive end Zach Harrison was the highest-ranked recruit signed by the Buckeyes this year. Ranked a 5-star prospect and the No. 12 player in the class overall, Harrison has had expectations placed on him that will take time to live up to.
The reasons for those expectations are easy to see. At 6-foot-5 and 243 pounds, Harrison casts an imposing shadow. And running a 10.78 100-meter dash, it isn’t easy for that shadow to keep up.
In other words, if you were going to design a freshman defensive end, he would look a lot like Zach Harrison.
He is far from where he will be in a few years, but the process is now underway. And it is something that he is looking forward to.
“I don’t think I’ve scratched the surface,” Harrison said. “I have a long way to go, which is exciting. I’m decent right now, but I’m waiting for it to take off.”
Harrison was productive in high school and worked hard in the offseason to be great player. In college, the offseason work starts early and is quite a bit different.
“It’s just more intense,” he said. “Everything’s faster paced. In high school we had our workout on the board and went through it. Here, coaches have the workout and they run you through it. It’s that much more focused on your detail and every rep is being scrutinized so you’re going to get that much better.”
While Harrison was in high school, he was generally the biggest and the fastest player on the field. Everybody knew who he was and he could impose his will when he wanted to. Now as a freshman in college and just starting his journey, he is no longer the biggest or the fastest, and just beginning to learn what it takes to be a Buckeye.
That can either be intimidating or motivating.
“It’s a little bit of both because I know everyone’s good here,” Harrison said. “But I like it because I’m being pushed. In the weight room, guys like [Jonathon] Cooper and the old heads there are the same as I was, and they’re 3-4 years in. They’re pushing me that much harder.”
One month in, Harrison has seen a glimpse of the requirements of this football program. For some, it can be a reality check. For Harrison, things have been as expected, which is why his focus has been on working hard rather than playing time.
“I’m just going to come and work hard and whatever happens, it happens,” he said. “I’m not worried about playing time or this many snaps or this many sacks. I just want to work hard.”
It also helps that he is one of eight defensive ends on the roster, which means defensive line coach Larry Johnson doesn’t need to ask more of Harrison than he is capable of providing. He is certainly being pushed, but he is learning all along the way. And when he is ready, Johnson will give him an opportunity to succeed.
Harrison has been described as laden with potential, but far from a finished product. This is typical of all freshmen, so Harrison doesn’t take offense to the notion.
“I would agree,” he said. “I have a lot of potential. That’s part of the reason I came. Coach J is a really good coach and really good at coaching technique. That’s one of the things I need.”
Harrison has come to Ohio State with tons of potential, but more importantly, he has the attitude necessary for success.
“I know there are going to be good days and bad days,” he said, “but I’m ready to compete and ready to work.”