Everybody knows that one of the best parts of being a sports fan is debating and dissecting the most (and least) important questions in the sporting world with your friends. So, we’re bringing that to the pages of LGHL with our favorite head-to-head column: You’re Nuts.
In You’re Nuts, two LGHL staff members will take differing sides of one question and argue their opinions passionately. Then, in the end, it’s up to you to determine who’s right and who’s nuts.
Today’s Question: Which returning Buckeye will make the biggest jump from last season?
Note: We eliminated C.J. Stroud — and the other quarterbacks competing for the starting job — because of how little opportunity they had to play last season behind Justin Fields. Players at all other positions at least had a chance to get some playing time, QBs in 2020, not so much.
Jami’s Take: Zach Harrison
Ohio State’s defense on the whole wasn’t at its best in 2020, so they have something to prove in the season ahead, especially after their lackluster performance (to put in nicely) in the National Championship game.
Expect Zach Harrison to do just that.
The 6-foot-6, 265-pound defensive end has been an underrated presence for the Buckeyes, but he hasn’t quite lived up to the hype yet.
That will all change this season; 2021 is going to be the year he goes off.
He gave us flashes of his potential during the 2020 season, but what was really lacking was consistency. He has the physical stature to pose a massive threat to opposing offenses, and there were moments where the dots seemed to connect, but for the most part, those bright spots faded as quickly as they appeared.
But Harrison experienced a sort of monster transformation during the offseason. Coaches raved about his improvement. Ryan Day called it a “mindset change,” saying he had put in the work during the offseason and become a true leader.
During the Spring Game, Harrison gave us a glimpse of what his coaches were saying. He looked more confident, comfortable with the job at hand. He was getting off the edge faster. To be honest, he looked like a different player. The Zach Harrison on the field at the Spring Game is ready to do some damage.
Harrison has the speed and explosive power to really throw off opposing offenses. He’s extremely agile and possesses a lateral quickness that makes him a huge threat on the edge. I expect to see him bursting into the backfields often this season.
If he’s going to go from good to great, Harrison needs to produce more consistently this season. He’ll also need to refine his pass-rush plan. Doing so will allow him to really capitalize on his physical stature and athleticism. He also needs to be able to sustain his speed, maintaining the explosiveness he has at the top of a play.
But he has all the makings of a great defensive end, and if he can improve in these areas, look to Harrison to join the likes of Chase Young and Joey and Nick Bosa. And based on the way the coaches have spoken about his growth, it seems like a no-brainer that he can. Expect to hear Harrison’s name uttered with awe and reverence this fall.
Draft analysts are already banking on Harrison having a breakout season in 2021, which would improve his draft stock immensely. Basing their predictions for the 2022 NFL Draft on the belief that he hasn’t come close to his ceiling yet, many analysts have him going as a first-round pick.
ESPN draft expert Todd McShay and The Athletic’s Dane Brugler have him as the fourth defensive end chosen, going at No. 25 overall. FOX college football writer R.J. Young has him as the No. 6 overall draft pick.
While many Buckeyes could see their version of a breakout season this year, none have had their growth touted more than Zach Harrison. This is a guy whose potential we can’t even comprehend yet, and 2021 is going to be the year he really steps up to show us what he can do.
Matt’s Take: Miyan Williams
I totally understand Jami’s impulse to go with Zach Harrison here, after all, I
predicted was told by the football gods that he would be a top-10 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, so I get it. But the thing is, Harrison is starting at a far higher place than my pick, Miyan Williams, is; Therefore, solely based on the physics of the matter, Harrison’s jump will be lesser than that of Williams. So Miyan is a better choice.
As Jami mentions (and I agree with), Harrison is expected to make a huge jump towards his five-star potential in 2021, but it wasn’t like he was chopped liver last season. He played in seven games and averaged a pair of tackles per outing — 4.5 of which were for loss; obviously not a ton, but compared to Williams, it’s a heck of a lot more to start with.
“Meatball” “Chop” Williams had 10 whole carries in 2020, nine of them coming in December and January. He was essentially an afterthought in the running back rotation during his true freshman season until he was given the opportunity to play sparingly late in the year. On the season, he averaged 6.4 yards per attempt; promising, but still a super small sample size.
However, reports out of Ohio State’s fall camp seem to indicate that he is at least in the running (if not the leading candidate) to be the Buckeyes’ RB1 come Sept. 2 in Minneapolis. That is a Nate Robinson level jump for the 5-foot-8 back. Just over two weeks ago, at the beginning of OSU’s camp, Jami and I discussed what we thought the running back rotation would be this season, and I had Williams third in terms of percentage of carries on the season behind TreVeyon Henderson and Master Teague.
If we did that article over now, I would have Williams at least ahead of Teague, if not in the lead. Coaches have talked about how much work Williams has put in over the offseason, and the fact that he is consistently getting the first reps in position drills and is reportedly always running with the 1s seems to indicate that he has already made a huge jump from being the fourth-leading (non-Justin Fields) rusher last season to potentially being the starter in 2021.
So, while I do expect Harrison to make a jump this year, by the virtue of him starting at an already elevated spot means that it will likely be nowhere near as big of a leap as Williams will make from also-ran to significant backfield leader this year.
Who has the right answer to today’s question?
This poll is closed
Jami: Zach Harrison
Matt: Miyan Williams