Every day until fall camp begins for Ohio State, we will profile a different Buckeye football player. Today that player is junior defensive end Zach Harrison. Yesterday it was defensive lineman Noah Potter. You can find all of the daily Scoop Profiles right here.
No. 9 | Defensive End | 6-6 268 | Junior | Olentangy Orange High School | Lewis Center, Ohio
How’d He Get Here
The summer before Zach Harrison’s senior season of high school he ran a 4.47 out at The Opening, so when somebody asks “how’d he get here,” the answer is “faster than most.” Ohio State offered Harrison after his sophomore season and they seemed to be the team to beat for a while. Then the spring after his junior season he took visits to places like Michigan, Penn State, and Clemson. To further cloud the situation, Urban Meyer retired in early December of 2018, just a couple of weeks before Harrison’s 2019 class could start signing. There were stretches that fall where it felt like Harrison was leaning to Michigan, then stretches of Penn State, along with stretches where the Buckeyes felt like the favorite. Ultimately, Ryan Day and Larry Johnson got their guy, and it didn’t hurt matters that after the fact, the two guys recruiting him the hardest at Michigan — Al Washington and Greg Mattison — would later join him at OSU.
Zach Harrison followed a lineage of 5-star defensive ends like Joey and Nick Bosa and Chase Young to Ohio State and was seen as somebody who would continue along that same path. Harrison was the No. 2 strongside defensive end in the 2019 class and the No. 12 player overall. He played in every game and started twice as a true freshman in 2019, finishing with 24 tackles, five tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks. Last year he played in seven of eight games, finishing with 14 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, and 2.0 sacks. This year, he takes over as one of the Buckeyes leaders on the defense and should find himself a regular starting role at defensive end.
What to Like
Gosh, what is there to like about a defensive end who is 6-foot-6 and 270 pounds and runs a 4.5 and has length and strength and is more focused than he’s ever been? Would it help if he also had tight end hands? Because he does. The criticisms of Zach Harrison have been how raw he was and that he relied upon his natural abilities early on as he built up his technique. Now that he’s in year three, the technique is in line with his physical attributes. He knows this could be his contract year and he is taking it very seriously.
What’s the Ceiling This Year?
The ceiling for Zach Harrison this year is double-digit sacks and All-American accolades. The expectations he’s had placed upon him since his high school career are on the verge of being realized. Last year was an impossibility for many people, and it usually takes a little bit of time for a player to get comfortable and know exactly what it takes to reach their potential. The development last year was up and down, but things have been smooth for enough time now to expect a big jump in production. Even though Harrison is a junior, we can look back at the players he’s been compared to and expect something similar to their respective sophomore seasons. What does that look like? Well, as a sophomore, Chase Young had 10.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss, Nick Bosa had 8.5 sacks and 16.0 tackles for loss, and Joey Bosa had 13.5 sacks and 21.0 tackles for loss.
Zach Harrison is already showing up early in 2022 mock drafts, so it’s not like he’s a secret nationally despite his 5.5 career sacks in 21 games. Of course, Michigan defensive end Kwity Paye and Penn State defensive end Jayson Oweh combined for two sacks last year (both by Paye) and were each selected in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft, so the NFL looks at more than just quarterback sacks. Still, if Harrison doesn’t top his career stats this year, that would be a bit of a surprise. Harrison talked this spring about how much more seriously he approached this season. It started back in the winter and he is focused on reaching his immense potential this year. This could be his last season at Ohio State, but if it isn’t, that wouldn’t bum out anybody in Ohio.