Ohio State’s Harrison playing at his best

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Jim Naveau

COLUMBUS – When Ohio State recruited Zach Harrison in 2019, he was regarded as the next great defensive lineman who would soon follow in the footsteps of Chase Young and the Bosa brothers.

He admitted after OSU’s 54-10 win over Iowa on Saturday at Ohio Stadium that those ideas had crept into his mind during his freshman year.

“It took a little while. Coming in and seeing guys like Chase (Young) and DaVon (Hamilton) and seeing what they did, I was like, ‘I’m doing that next year.’ Sometimes it doesn’t happen like you dream it,” he said.

“You just keep grinding, keep working, put one foot in front of the other and let the chips fall where they may.”

The senior defensive end was one of the standouts on an OSU defense which was one of the driving forces behind Saturday’s win. He had a sack, two tackles for losses, a pass breakup and a forced fumble.

“Zach is playing some of his best football right now,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “Zach has really come along. He has practiced well. His leadership has been really good. He’s probably playing his best football right now.

“He came in highly recruited. He’s had to grow into his body, grow into the position. That takes time, it doesn’t just happen. Everybody wants to come in and be an All-American as a freshman. Everybody has their own journey. He has been on that journey. He has worked hard and made a lot of sacrifices. You’re seeing the best version of him right now,” he said.

Harrison has been second-team All-Big Ten in two seasons. But he carried the burden of being a 5-star recruit who was rated the top recruit in Ohio in 2019 and there was a fierce competition to sign him among OSU and two of its huge rivals, Michigan and Penn State. That made the spotlight focused on him even brighter.

Asked if Saturday’s game might be the best overall game of his career, Harrison said, “I don’t know about in my career but I definitely played well today. I have to keep stacking days and keep practicing well and keep improving.

“I’m not there. I feel like I’ve got plenty of improvement to make. But I feel like I’m definitely taking steps in the right direction,” he said.

Day told a story after Saturday’s game about how he thought he might not win the recruiting battle for Harrison.

“Zach was one of the first recruits for me. Larry (defensive line coach Larry Johnson) and I went to the home. I had just been named the head coach. We went through the whole visit and I gave him a buckeye. I said, ‘This is a buckeye, I want you to have this.’

“He looked at it and said, ‘Coach, you know buckeyes are poisonous. I told Larry later, ‘We aren’t getting him.’ About a week later Larry came in and said, ‘Zach is going to be a Buckeye.’ That was a big deal for us.”

If Harrison continues to play like he did on Saturday, that could be a big deal for Ohio State, too.

Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414.

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