College Football Doldrums
If you’ve ever driven I-20 through the deep south, from Atlanta to Meridian, for instance, you’ve noticed the football billboards as you’ve approached Tuscaloosa, Alabama, from either direction. They’re promoting the on-campus Bear Bryant Museum, a shrine to Crimson Tide football and the legendary coach. It’s the slogan that gets me every time that I pass one of the signs: “where the season never ends.”
With Bama’s loss to Georgia last week, ending the College Football Playoffs, we’ve entered the “College Football Doldrums.” So, it’s nice to know that there’s someplace where the season never ends. Though I admit that I’ve never stopped in to visit the Bryant Museum. Never really liked Bama that much.
My season has ended, in fact. And it’s a long way to Ohio State’s spring game on April 16.
But there are plenty of other things to look forward to for the 2022 season, and I put Marvin Harrison, Jr. at the top of my list. His Rose Bowl performance whetted my appetite for more of Harrison – much more.
A new situation for Marvin Harrison, Jr. — and for Kyle McCord
When Quinn Ewers changed his class status, actually enrolled at OSU, and could be seen in uniform on the sidelines, I had some cause for worry. And I wrote about my concern then. My fear was that, with the very crowded quarterback room, Kyle McCord would head for the transfer portal and take his high school teammate with him. In one stroke, both McCord and Harrison would be wearing different uniforms.
But the situations have changed – for both of them. Ewers played two snaps for the Buckeyes (he didn’t look that great) and headed back to Texas. Third-string quarterback Jack Miller is also gone, moving south to play for the Florida Gators. McCord’s opportunity as an Ohio State quarterback has gotten much better. Sure, barring a C.J. Stroud injury (heaven forbid!), he’s going to be a backup again this year. But with one start and 95 game snaps in his pocket, McCord’s experienced and ready to go. Even if he doesn’t play except in mop-up time this coming year, he’s positioned to take the reins of the nation’s most potent offense and throw passes again to Harrison for at least the 2023 season. Then, who knows? McCord would be a fool to go elsewhere and start from scratch.
Likewise, Harrison’s prospects have improved too. With Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba occupying the three starting receiver spots, Harrison was certainly looking at limited playing time in 2021. Additionally, he was competing with Julian Fleming and Emeka Egbuka, both of whom were #1 receiver prospects in their respective recruiting years. As the season, progressed, however, it became clear that the Buckeye coaches liked what Harrison showed them in practice, and he gradually emerged as the number four wideout. Harrison played in all 13 Buckeye games (Egbuka played in 10, Fleming in eight); he saw action on 255 snaps (Fleming had 177 snaps, Egbuka 115). Then, in the Rose Bowl, with Olave and Wilson electing not to play, Harrison seized his chance.
Rose Bowl breakout performance
I had some concerns about that game in Pasadena. The Utah defense, though I hadn’t watched them play for a full game, was tough; statistically, in fact, they were great. Would the Buckeyes, without their two All American WRs, try to run more, give the ball to TreVeyon Henderson? The Utah run defense looked much like Michigan’s, and we know what happened up there. In the passing game, what receiver(s) would step up?
Well, that receiver was Marvin Harrison, Jr. His readiness to play a big role in a big game was evident right from the start. Harrison displayed for us (and for everyone watching, or hearing about the game) the full package for a standout receiver: great size, superb separation ability, sure hands, a capacity for fighting defenders for the ball, speed, and (what I liked best) skill in running after the catch. A reliable receiver, with big-play possibilities.
Harrison’s six catches for 71 yards and three touchdowns might pale next to JSN’s record-setting performance. But Harrison gave us more than a glimpse (he gave us a game-long eyeful) of future stardom. He gave us assurance that the exciting passing game would continue beyond Olave and Wilson, beyond 2021.
I had thought that, perhaps, Egbuka would be the guy. He had that long catch and run early in the season for 85 yards, and he showed his elusiveness and his speed on kick-off returns. Fleming? Highly-touted and a year ahead of Harrison and Egbuka, but he’s never really impressed me. Maybe next year.
Harrison’s season stats may not win him any awards. He wasn’t one of the most prolific pass catcher for the Bucks this year. His eleven receptions for 139 yards gave him a 12.6 average per catch, seventh on the team. He caught passes in only four games: one against Akron (Bucks won by 52), two against Indiana (a 47-point Buckeye win), two against Nebraska (a close game, but Wilson didn’t play), and then the Rose Bowl.
I don’t think that Harrison’s play during the regular season prepared me for what he did against the Utes. In that game, on that huge stage, he was a veteran, and it was obvious that Stroud had every confidence in him, targeting him on crucial downs.
2022, here we come
Next year will be Harrison’s season to shine. He figures to be the #2 receiver, behind Smith-Njigba. And we all know that Ryan Day and C.J. Stroud can target two (three? four?) receivers sufficiently to accumulate eye-popping stats. That’s what Harrison will have next year. I’m sure of it, and I can’t wait to see it.
Yes, it’s a long way until April, much longer yet until the Fighting Irish arrive in town. In the meantime, though, I’ll keep adding to my “looking forward to” list. And you can stay tuned to Land Grant Holy Land, where the season never ends.