Ohio State Football: Will Zach Harrison live up to the hype?

Ohio State Buckeyes defensive end Zach Harrison (9) talks to teammates during football training camp at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus on Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021.Ohio State Football Training Camp
Ohio State Buckeyes defensive end Zach Harrison (9) talks to teammates during football training camp at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus on Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021.Ohio State Football Training Camp /

The Ohio State football team is hoping the former five-star defensive end finally lives up to his billing.

In the 2019 recruiting class, the Ohio State football team had a huge victory landing Zach Harrison, a five-star defensive end ranked 12th nationally. After Harrison’s commitment, he was advertised to be the next dominant edge rusher for Larry Johnson, Ohio State’s Defensive Line coach. He was compared to the Bosa brothers and Chase Young, Harrison was the next in line to be the dominant defensive end and go on to be a first-round draft pick.

Two years into Harrison’s career at OSU, he has not lived up to the high expectations. However, Harrison still has time to live up to these high hopes.

For some reason a lot of fans were disappointed in Harrison’s performance last season. Part of this is likely due to the almost unfair expectations people had for him due to his high ranking as a recruit. It is not easy to replicate the pure dominance of past Buckeye edge rushers like Young.

Honestly, he looked pretty good out there when he did play. Harrison did not play a ton last year but still flashed his potential at times. He didn’t have the gaudy stats most people look at, so people were upset with Harrison’s play. For example, he had only 4.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.

The ultimate goal for edge rushers is to get sacks. Getting consistent pressures on quarterbacks is equally important, and pressures are not something that is recorded in a typical box score. In his last four games, Harrison had a PFF grade of 90.0. In addition, he posted 19 pressures on 102 pass-rushing snaps, which is good for a solid 18.6% pressure rate.

According to PFF, Harrison is the best returning defender among Power Five teams.

As a pass rusher, Harrison was good at the end of last season. Yes, there were some inconsistencies for him last year but what’s important is he showed at times why he can become a dominant pass rusher.

There is a lot of hype surrounding the Ohio State football team this offseason

This offseason, there’s been a sense that Harrison is a changed player. Over and over again, different reporters are predicting Harrison will have a breakout season. Coaches are constantly crediting Harrison for his good offseason. Overall, there is nothing but praise for Harrison right now. He seems to be building off his good play from last season.

Johnson, the Buckeye Defensive Line coach, answered what’s different about Harrison this year,

"He’s more confident right now. He’s playing much faster of a pace that we like him to play at. His leadership is off the charts right now. But he put the work in, he’s 270. He probably played last year around 255. So he’s a bigger, stronger guy going into his junior year. So we kinda like where he’s at right now."

It wouldn’t be unusual for Harrison to just dominate this year. We saw Young have a good season his sophomore year, but his junior season was one of the greatest defensive end seasons in Ohio State football history. For players as talented as Harrison, they can make a huge jump in just one year. Sometimes everything just falls into place for them and it just clicks.

For the Buckeyes, there hasn’t been that one dominant edge-rushing force since Young. The defensive line rotation has still been one of the best in the country. But if a consistent, dominant edge rusher is added to Ohio State’s deep defensive line group, look out college football.

Harrison can be the edge-rushing presence to take the Buckeyes’ defensive front to the next level. There are several defensive ends that could be imposing this year, but among all of Ohio State’s defensive ends, Harrison is the safest bet right now.

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There is no guarantee Harrison can become the next edge rusher who becomes a first-round talent for Ohio State. For the first time, there are certainly some warranted expectations for Harrison to become that good. There is so much hype around Harrison this offseason, it is definitely worth getting excited about his potential upcoming season.