Stay in touch or be left out because Ohio State recruiting is a 24-hour, seven-day-per-week obsession. What’s the latest news as the Buckeyes build for the future? Get that and more Sunday through Thursday on Lettermen Row, including tonight’s update on Zach Harrison’s decision and the rumors around Justin Field’s potential transfer.
Decision Day for Zach Harrison
It’s been almost two years since Zach Harrison became a national name, and we’re now less than 24 hours away from knowing where he’s heading for college.
Sometime around noon on Wednesday, either Michigan, Ohio State or Penn State will receive a Letter of Intent with Harrison’s name on it — and a fanbase will celebrate landing one of the most talented physical prospects in the country.
Catch our livestream tomorrow at 12:30 for @Zacharrison88’s college signing event! Zach will be announcing his commitment to either Michigan, Ohio State, or Penn State. @Jacoblipperman @MaxBrunkeTweets @tross120
— Orange Sports Live (@OOHSSportsLive) December 18, 2018
Harrison’s recruitment has been all over the place in the last eight months. In the spring, there was serious smoke about Penn State as his favorite. The Nittany Lions had done a great job building a bond between him and James Franklin.
Over the last few months, my belief has been that it would be Michigan that would land Harrison. It’s been my belief that was the school he preferred, despite some pressure around him to choose Ohio State, because of his relationship with Michigan linebackers coach Al Washington and a handful of commitments heading to that program.
Ohio State has maintained its position with Harrison over the last year or so thanks in major part to defensive line coach Larry Johnson. The Buckeyes have been patient while Harrison sorted out his priorities and his feelings, but occasionally the pressures of staying close to home have appeared to weigh the 6-foot-5, 250-pound defensive end down.
The assortment of scandals and rumors around the Buckeyes toward the end of the summer seemed to make it easier for the country’s No. 5-ranked player to consider leaving home. The Michigan talk ramped up, and a season full of hype around Harbaugh’s program talk only amplified it while the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions seemed to fade.
That’s when the latest twists occurred. Ohio State put up 62 points on Michigan — and could’ve put up 80. Daxton Hill, a 5-star safety who was expected to be a lightning rod for Harrison in the class for the Wolverines flipped to Alabama. Still, because we’re talking about one of the more private kids in recent recruiting history, it’s been impossible to tell how the player himself was actually impacted.
I don’t encourage folks who follow recruiting to pay too much attention to crystal balls. But there are a few people tied to each program around the country that are worth paying attention to — and Sam Webb, who covers Michigan for 247Sports, is certainly one of them. He’s very well-connected with the Wolverines, so when he makes a move on a player they are recruiting, it’s worth noting.
On Tuesday morning, he changed his crystal ball away from Michigan to Ohio State. It’s my belief that he did so not because he knows Harrison is choosing the Buckeyes, but rather assumes as much because he’s been told Harrison has decided he’s not selecting Michigan.
I have tried at pretty much every turn to avoid writing about Zach Harrison, because when he knows about his college decision, he’ll make it public. I don’t believe he’s made up his mind, but if my assumption on Michigan’s fate is correct, the Ohio State odds have improved to 50 percent from 33 percent. That’s good news, I suppose.
I absolutely believe that Penn State is not being given enough of a chance in this recruitment. Franklin is an excellent recruiter. I think the decision by Meyer to retire actually helped Ohio State, and so does Harrison’s knowledge that Johnson isn’t going anywhere. I think his family would prefer he stay home but will absolutely support him anywhere he goes, and I think Harrison believes he’s capable of being developed well at Ohio State or Penn State — as he was with Michigan.
I still believe he wants to get away from home. That’s why I am not going to rule out Penn State at all. I know it’s not what anyone reading this is expecting, and I know there’s a 50-percent chance I’m wrong, but it’s been a guessing game in this recruitment for the last six months. I’m not too proud to admit that it is.
Whatever happens with Harrison on Wednesday will not be a surprise. I know it’s hard to digest, but this is absolutely something that could go either way. I think he wants to go away for college, and that’s why he’d pick Penn State along with how close he is to James Franklin. I know the speculation is that family and friends are pushing for him to stay home and pick Ohio State, but if he’s truly determined to get away for school I don’t think they’ll stop him from doing so. I wonder if the rumors around Franklin and other jobs like USC could play into his final choice.
I think Harrison is going to pick Ohio State. I think Larry Johnson’s history of developing men and football players, combined with the knowledge that he’ll have time to develop not be thrust into the spotlight right away as a freshman, will be the reason. I think Ryan Day’s low-key demeanor aligns with Harrison more than Meyer’s high-intensity ways did.
So, final call? I think Zach Harrison picks Ohio State. But I know Penn State is a real option and a major threat.
Rumors about Justin Fields and Ohio State
So, I guess we need to try and address the Justin Fields rumors.
Who is Justin Fields? He was the No. 2-ranked prospect in the Class of 2018, a quarterback from Georgia who was at one time committed to Penn State before signing with the Bulldogs. He played in all 12 games for Georgia this season in limited duty backing up Jake Fromm — and is now considering a transfer.
It’s important to underline that point in bright red marker before going too much further. He’s considering a transfer and nothing is official yet. Georgia is working hard to change his mind.
Now, on to the good stuff — the speculation!
According to Kyle Rowland of the Toledo Blade, Fields top choice if he transfers is Ohio State.
That’s very interesting, obviously, for a number of reasons. The cold-hard truth is that Fields is the best quarterback prospect I’ve ever seen in person, and if he’s interested in the Buckeyes, there is zero doubt they will be interested in him. He’s the type of player that changes a program, period.
Talking to sources close to Georgia, it seems they’re close to conceding that a transfer is coming. But there’s no one saying Ohio State is the landing spot.
“If he goes,” one source said. “And he probably goes, it’s probably Oklahoma or Florida State.”
The logic behind that appears to be this: 5-star 2019 receiver Jadon Haselwood is close to Fields and people in the south believe that the two stars want to play together at the next level. Oklahoma and Florida State are two of the finalists for Haselwood — as is Georgia, where he was previously committed — but Ohio State is not.
Oklahoma will lose Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray to the Oakland Athletics next spring, has won the award in back-to-back seasons and is no doubt feeling like it can provide quarterbacks a pretty great platform for success. So, too, can Ohio State and Day, with Dwayne Haskins coming off the biggest year in Big Ten quarterback history. Haskins and Fields share a quarterbacks coach, Quincy Avery, who is very comfortable and familiar with Day.
If I had a son who played Quarterback I would 100% want him to play for Ryan Day…
— Quincy Avery (@Quincy_Avery) December 4, 2018
So what does it all mean? Is Ohio State going to land Justin Fields?
My advice is to pump the brakes until a transfer is actually announced. If Fields does intend to transfer, however, there are plenty of reasons why Ohio State makes a lot of sense as his next destination.
Commits Big Board after Urban Meyer retirement
As of 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, here’s where things seem to stand with the Buckeyes and their current crop of 2019 and 2020 commitments.
- 2020 offensive lineman Jake Wray
- 2020 defensive back Lejond Cavazos
Here’s where things are with the other commits already in the mix.
- 2019 QB Dwan Mathis: Solid.
- 2019 RB Steele Chambers: Solid. Could sign Wednesday and still wants to take second official visit next month.
- 2019 RB Marcus Crowley: Solid.
- 2019 WR Garrett Wilson: Solid.
- 2019 WR Jameson Williams: Solid.
- 2019 TE Cormontae Hamilton: Solid.
- 2019 OL Ryan Jacoby: Solid.
- 2019 OL Doug Nester: Concern. Visited Penn State on Sunday, will visit other schools in January.
- 2019 OL Harry Miller: Solid.
- 2019 DL Noah Potter: Solid.
- 2019 LB Cade Stover: Solid.
- 2019 DB Bryson Shaw: Solid.
- 2019 DB Ronnie Hickman: Solid.
- 2019 DB Craig Young: Solid.
- 2019 DB Jordan Battle: Major concern. Decommitment and a flip to Alabama is expected on Signing Day.
- 2020 QB Jack Miller: Solid.
- 2020 RB Darvon Hubbard: Some concern.
- 2020 WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba: Solid.
- 2020 OL Paris Johnson: Mostly solid, but will make other visits while he gets to know Ryan Day.
- 2020 OL Luke Wypler: Solid.
I’ll continue updating this list as changes happen.
Birm is Lettermen Row's Director of Recruiting and the site's primary Ohio State sports photographer. A Toledo, Ohio native, Jeremy has been in similar roles for elevenwarriors.com and Landof10.com and has been covering the Buckeyes for seven years.