Buckeye Football Freshman Focus 2019 — DE Zach Harrison

Zach Harrison Ohio State Buckeyes

Zach Harrison was the highest-ranked recruit in Ohio State’s 2019 recruiting class.

He was a 5-star prospect, ranked the No. 12 player in the 247Sports Composite and the No. 12 player overall.

Listed at 6-foot-6 and 255 pounds, Harrison is an incredible athlete and a talented track performer. Last July, he was timed running a 4.45 and a 4.47 40-yard dash at The Opening Finals. As a junior, he recorded personal bests of 10.78 in the 100m and 21.55 in the 200m.

Harrison had offers from everywhere, and eventually found himself torn between Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State. At various points in his recruitment, he was thought to be leaning towards all three.

Michigan coaches Al Washington and Greg Mattison made the Wolverines a distinct lure, but he ultimately signed with Ohio State during the December early signing period. Mattison and Washington joined him in Columbus soon after.

Harrison enrolled at Ohio State in January and took part in winter conditioning and spring ball, which went very well for him.

What To Like

Where to begin.

Zach Harrison arrived at Ohio State tagged with the “raw” label, but he picked up things quickly in both the winter workouts and spring practices. He lost his black stripe pretty quickly. He put his athleticism and abilities to good use and learned on the fly.

While he is the prototype in terms of physicality, his hard-working mentality is worth five stars as well. He listens, he learns, and then he applies. And he does it quickly, because he didn’t look as raw as expected the few times the media saw him in the spring.

Here are three plays in a row that display Harrison’s reach, relentlessness, and raw power. The video goes on, and you’ll probably end up watching it all.

It’s not often you’ll watch a defensive end’s highlight reel and see him showcasing his deep-threat abilities, but that’s the rarity of Zach Harrison.

There is nothing not to like here.

The Potential

Speed is necessary to play defensive end, but it’s not the only thing. The NFL Hall of Fame has plenty of pass rushers who never needed Zach Harrison’s speed to make quarterbacks’ lives miserable.

That being said, if you take every 5-star defensive end of the internet era and have them run a 40, a 20-yard shuttle, throw a power ball, and put up their best vertical like they do at The Opening, Harrison is going to stand out.

To call him the prototype at the position would be inaccurate because coaches know better than to hope for somebody this big and this strong and this fast.

Harrison sees his potential as a reason to work hard, as opposed to a reason not to have to. He hasn’t even reached the part of his journey where he starts scratching the surface, but when he gets there, those scratches are gonna be pretty deep.

The Expectations

Zach Harrison is the latest lineage of 5-star defensive ends signed by Ohio State, and it will be interesting to see who he most compares to as a true freshman.

In 2013, Joey Bosa was in the rotation immediately, and then ended up starting for most of the season when Adolphus Washington got hurt. In 2016, Nick Bosa was in the rotation immediately, but never actually started. He was certainly one of four defensive ends in the rotation and played as much as anybody else, however.

Then in 2017 there was Chase Young. Young didn’t make it into the rotation, but considering there were four NFL defensive ends in front of him, you can’t blame him. Young still played quite a bit. Early in the season there were so many blowouts that he was actually leading the defensive ends in snaps. But he was kept mostly confined to safe situations by defensive line coach Larry Johnson.

So where will Harrison fit in this year as a true freshman? Probably somewhere between Chase Young and Nick Bosa. The Buckeyes return every defensive end from a year ago, so they have depth. There isn’t much experience beyond starters Young and Jonathon Cooper, so it’s not like there are as many established players on the depth chart as there was in 2017.

Sophomores Tyreke Smith and Tyler Friday will have a say, as will redshirt freshmen Javontae Jean-Baptiste and Alex Williams. And don’t forget that Harrison wasn’t the only defensive end brought in in this class, so he will also be competing with rookie Noah Potter as well.

Beyond this year, the expectations are certainly as high as they have been for Joey Bosa and Chase Young.

There’s a long way to go to get there, but plenty of time to make it happen.

The Bottom Line

While we look at Zach Harrison’s measureables and see a monster pass rusher, we should also keep in mind that those measurables can allow him to do a lot of different things.

He can be an effective dropper into coverage. He is able to stretch plays out to the sideline until help arrives. And he has the kind of speed that allows him to track down quarterbacks who may have broken containment a little bit.

Zach Harrison is far from a perfect player, but every team in the nation would love to help him work on his flaws.

Harrison has a shot to get into a 4-man rotation if that’s what Larry Johnson wants, but at this point, the Chase Young approach is more likely this year.

As he continues to learn and fill up his tool box, however, by his junior season he may be a 4-man rotation all by himself.


[Zach Harrison header photo courtesy Ohio State Football / Twitter. | Ohio State Football]

One Response

  1. I’ve been told to expect to see NO LESS than 6 DE’s see the field in 2019.

    Come the end of the season that defensive front is going to be as fresh as a spring daisy

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