There are 25 of the best athletes in the country in Ohio State’s class of 2016 – which finished at No. 2 nationally – but only one of them had “athlete” listed as his position by the Buckeyes when an official list of the signees was distributed.
That distinction belongs to Columbus Walnut Ridge three-star Malik Harrison, who was also classified as an athlete by Scout.com. His athleticism can be summed up in the fact that his high school head coach Byron Mattox knew Harrison would one day be a Division I football prospect because of his exploits as a freshman – on the basketball court.
“He started on the basketball team as a freshman, and you would see some of the stuff he would do,” Mattox said. “I saw how big his hands were and he could jump and he could run and was a great kid. And then football he started as a sophomore and you just knew.”
There were hats from Indiana, Louisville, Ohio State and Wisconsin on the table Feb. 3 when Harrison chose the Buckeyes, and he’ll have just as many choices when it comes to finding a spot for him in Columbus.
Mattox said where teams saw Harrison generally depended on which side of the ball the assistant recruiting him happened to coach. Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell saw Harrison as a bigger Darron Lee according to Mattox. Indiana had him pegged as a slot receiver and Wisconsin saw him as a hybrid type.
Apparently the Buckeyes aren’t sure as a staff which position he’ll ultimately occupy, although part of that depends on whether or not he’s done growing. Harrison himself said there’s always a chance he grows into a defensive end, for example.
“His basketball highlight video is worth watching, if you haven't seen it yet,” Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said. “It's ridiculous. We sent at least four coaches to watch him play. He's one of those typical Ohio tough guys that we think is going to develop into something. I can't tell you what position, he might be a hand down, rushing the quarterback someday like Sam Hubbard. He might be an outside backer like a Darron Lee or he might be a tight end/H-back. We don't know.”
Added Fickell: “His ceiling is who knows where and reality is we bring him in here as an athlete. He could walk in tomorrow and try at wide out, try at tight end, try at defensive end, try at linebacker. What he is he's an explosive athlete with some length and a really good character kid that we're going to really enjoy having as part of this program.”
Harrison has his eyes on the offensive side of the ball and believes that’s where he’ll get his shot.
“When I was younger, I always wanted to be a receiver,” he told BSB. “Playing defense, I like it, but I’d rather play wide receiver than linebacker.”
How did that news go over with his head recruiter, who happens to be the linebackers coach at the school he signed for?
“He was OK with it because he just wanted me to be on the team,” Harrison said.
With a chance to pick up a player of Harrison’s athleticism, Ohio State was fine with giving Harrison a shot at wide receiver and letting time and genetics figure out the rest.
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