Marvin Harrison Jr. is Ohio State’s best chance against Georgia
Imagine the pressures of being a top player on one of the nation’s most iconic and talented teams. Imagine the pressure of knowing that the hopes and dreams of hundreds of thousands depend on your ability to catch a ball coming your way. Now imagine the pressure of doing all of that while bearing your father’s name…who happened to be better than almost anyone at what you’re trying to do.
Some people would collapse under the pressure. Some would avoid it altogether. And some, like Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr., would take it, wrestle it to the ground, conquer it.
“I think it’s easy for us to look and just say, ‘Well, his dad played in the NFL and then he became a Hall of Famer,'” Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said earlier this year. “It comes with a lot, a lot of expectations, especially when you have the same name as your father. And I just think Marvin has done a great job of forging his own path, but I think the expectations have always been there for him and not easy. But his work ethic, his approach, his attitude, who he is as a person, his parents raised a really great young man.”
“He has the name but doesn’t live by it,” says Adam Gorney, national recruiting director at Rivals. “He’s probably the best wide receiver in the world [college] Soccer.”
Charles McDonald, NFL draft analyst at Yahoo Sports, calls Harrison “one of the best wide receiver candidates to come out of this era of football. He has everything. Size, speed, competitive catch ability, distance running.”
Harrison has spent the last year or so compiling the kind of stats that light up Twitter, plague the Big Ten’s defensive coordinators, and get NFL teams planning how to pick up the draft. In just a few short weeks, he and the resurrected Buckeyes will face their greatest challenge — and greatest opportunity — traveling into enemy territory to face Georgia in the semifinals of the College Football Playoffs.
Harrison is the spearhead for Ohio State, the Buckeyes’ best realistic chance against Georgia.
“You may have just made a monster”
When it comes to starting debuts, it would be difficult to top Ohio State’s Harrisons. At last season’s Rose Bowl, promoted to a starting role after his teammates were eliminated, Harrison scored three touchdowns in Ohio State’s 48-45 win over Utah. The fact that Ohio State wasn’t in the playoffs this season — and also the fact that teammate Jaxon Smith-Njigba also caught three TDs and 347 yards worth — somewhat overshadowed Harrison’s performance. Still, not bad for a man who had caught all five passes in the season prior to that night at the Rose Bowl.
Harrison earned the nickname “Route Man Marv” from quarterback CJ Stroud for his precision when running routes as a freshman, which is the kind of attribute that gives your quarterback confidence in you but doesn’t exactly make the crowd shine. After all, no one applauds good distance runners.
Harrison learned the nuances of receiving from one of the best ever. Marvin Harrison Sr. played 13 seasons in the NFL, all for Indianapolis, winning a Super Bowl in the process and amassing dozens of NFL records for longevity and consistency. Marvin Jr. was born in August 2002, just weeks before the elder Harrison began the season in which he set career highs for receptions and mileage, led the NFL in both categories, and won First Team All-Pro honors.
The younger Harrison had his first Power 5 offer in hand — from Syracuse, his father’s alma mater — when he was a freshman in high school. After that year he transferred to St. Joseph’s Prep, a private school in the Philadelphia area known for its talent at state championship level. He attracted interest from Florida, LSU, Michigan, Penn State and Texas A&M but ultimately chose Columbus.
He was part of Ohio State’s 2021 runner-up recruiting class and after a quiet rookie regular season, he blew up at the Rose Bowl. He then filed charges against Buckeye Nation during the offseason when video surfaced of him racing a Monarc ball launcher:
“He’s been blessed with a tremendous amount of talent,” Day said. “But really, skill and discipline are off the charts too – and that’s hard to find because some guys are just blessed with great talent but have a harder time finding that skill and that discipline. He has both.”
After spending an entire season behind Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson — two Buckeyes who are now collecting yards in the NFL — Harrison stepped into the limelight, and when Smith-Njigba went down with a hamstring injury in the first game of the season, Harrison became WR1 and capitalized on every inch of promise shown in this three-TD Rose Bowl.
Harrison combines the precision of Jerry Rice’s route running with the reach of Julio Jones, then adds a layer of Randy Moss showmanship. For example, check out this moss of a Michigan State defender:
Or this one-armed grab for Michigan:
Or this one-armed touchline error against Indiana:
Each of them would be on a school’s highlight reel for a generation. Together they are proof that Harrison is one of the best in the game right now. He ranks fourth nationally in touchdowns and ninth in yards per game. He is second in the Big Ten in yards per reception. He has three touchdowns in a game — last January at the Rose Bowl and this year in wins against Arkansas State and Michigan State.
“When you watch week in and week out and his determination to play and get better, it’s like he’s doing whatever he needs to do as long as he stays focused and keeps his head straight,” senior Harrison told Fox’ Big Noon kickoff” in October. “Week after week, just forget about last week and focus on this week.”
His overall performance — 72 receptions, 1,157 yards, 12 touchdowns — earned him the Big Ten’s Richter-Howard Receiver of the Year honors and a Consensus All-American Award, as well as putting him in the running for the Biletnikoff Award, which honors top FBS Recipient. Harrison didn’t win this one — the Biletnikoff went to the Jaylin Hyatt in Tennessee — but he’s using the results as fuel.
“I felt like I deserved the win. Congratulations to Jalin, he has truly had an incredible year. But I think I deserved the win,” Harrison said last week. “I just can’t go into it, I have to move on. I have bigger and more important things to take care of right now.”
Later that night, Harrison spent time catching passes captioned “You May Just Made A Monster” at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
He later insisted it was his normal workout. Believe that if you will.
Georgia’s weakness could benefit Marvin Harrison Jr.
Harrison has at least a year left causing havoc in the state of Ohio, but this season isn’t quite finished yet. On New Year’s Eve there’s still the thing with the Georgia Bulldogs.
Conveniently enough for Harrison, the second is the only true weakness on the Bulldogs’ defense, which ranks 51st in the nation with 215.1 passing yards per game. The key for Ohio State will be keeping the offensive line protecting Stroud long enough for Harrison and Emeka Egbuka to take advantage of holes in Georgia’s defense. It’s doable since LSU Georgia’s high school put on roller skates and ran 502 yards up in the SEC championship game, and not all of it was trash.
However this season ends, Harrison will start next season with All-American and possibly even Heisman speculation. He’s on a path that will make him a cornerstone receiver in the 2024 NFL Draft.
“He’s exactly what the NFL is looking for in a wide receiver,” Gorney said. “Big body, super competitive, big dog factor and catches everything… NFL guys are going to look at their draft boards and be like, ‘This guy can’t get too far.’ ”
The monster, it seems, is just beginning.
Contact Jay Busbee at [email protected] or on Twitter @jaybusbee.