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Player to Watch: Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr. is already a known commodity

We begin a month of players to watch with perhaps the most obvious choice.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Barbara J. Perenic/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Every day from now until the start of the season, Land-Grant Holy Land is highlighting Ohio State football players that you should be watching this season. Check out all of our ”Player to Watch” articles to get ready for the season opener against Indiana.

When it comes to the players to watch on the 2023 Ohio State Buckeyes, there is perhaps no more obvious choice than standout wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. By whatever metrics “best player” is measured by, Harrison has to be in the conversation when it comes to Ohio State.

Harrison arrived at Ohio State as a highly rated recruit, but he was still more of a legacy name than a future star when he got to Columbus. His work ethic and the skills he showed off in camp changed all of that. He was as good or better than the other Buckeye receivers in his recruiting class, as well as some of the guys who had been in the program for a year or two.

As a freshman, Harrison had to wait his turn behind three guys who are now in the NFL — Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Chris Olave, and Garrett Wilson. But he still appeared in 13 games his freshman season. His first career reception went for nine yards in a 59-7 drubbing of Akron on Sept. 25, 2021. He add a pair of receptions for 34 yards in a 54-7 win at Indiana that October. The tall freshman snatched two more grabs for 25 yards at Nebraska two weeks after the win over the Hoosiers.

Then, the balls stopped coming. Harrison did not have a reception against Purdue, Michigan State, or Michigan that season. But when Olave and Wilson sat out the Rose Bowl to prepare for the NFL Draft, it was Harrison’s time to shine. Harrison had a huge coming out party against Utah in the Rose Bowl, finishing with six receptions for 71 yards and three touchdowns in the Buckeyes’ 48-45 win over the Utes, and everyone in Buckeye Nation felt a little better about losing Olave and Wilson to the National Football League.

Entering 2022, Harrison was supposed to be one of the three starters, but it was Smith-Njigba who everyone expected to stuff the stat sheet for the Buckeyes. Unfortunately, an early injury that never quite healed up cost Smith-Njigba a promising final season in Columbus.

No matter. Harrison was more than up to the task of pairing with Emeka Egbuka and replacing JSN’s production.

Anyone who watched Ohio State play last year saw Harrison’s obvious quality. Statistically, he led the Buckeyes in about every receiving category: receptions (77), yards (1,263), yards per reception (minimum 10 receptions — 16.4 yards per catch), receiving touchdowns (14), receptions per game (5.9), and receiving yards per game (97.2). His 14 receiving touchdowns tied David Boston for the second-most in a season by any Buckeye receiver, just three behind Terry Glenn’s school record of 17.

Harrison finished the 2022 season as a unanimous All-American and won the Richter–Howard Award as the Big Ten’s receiver of the year. Had he not been the victim of an egregious targeting foul that wasn’t even called against Georgia in the Peach Bowl, he might well be entering the 2023 season as a member of the defending national champions.

After all, he had ripped through the vaunted Bulldog defense for five receptions for 106 yards and two touchdowns on the night. It was one of seven games of 100+ receiving yards Harrison posted in 2022, and his fourth multi-touchdown game. A healthy Harrison for the final drive could have been the difference between going on to face TCU in the national championship and watching a field goal fly off line on the final offensive snap of the year.

Prior to Harrison’s three-touchdown game in the Rose Bowl as a freshman, 13 different players had managed three touchdown receptions or more in a game in the history of Ohio State football and none of them did it twice. Harrison did it three times in his first six starts and might have done it again vs. Georgia had he not been concussed in the end zone.

Obviously, it could have gone without saying that Marvin Harrison Jr. is a player to watch for Ohio State in 2023 (had I not said it). I didn’t have to tell you about Route Man Marv. You know. The reason to watch him in 2023 is because he’ll be playing on Sundays before you know it. Savor his OSU appearances while you can.

Another season like 2022 and a fruitful NFL career, and people won’t be calling him Marvin Harrison’s son anymore. They might be calling Marvin Harrison “Marvin Harrison Jr.’s dad.”