Three years ago when he was the No. 1-ranked recruit in Ohio, the No. 2 defensive end prospect and the No. 12 overall prospect in the 247Sports Composite national rankings, he preferred to let his play at Olentangy Orange High School north of Columbus do the talking.
He was an All-Ohio pick and made 14 tackles for loss, including seven sacks, in seven games during his senior season.
His recruiting went all the way to the the early National Signing Day in December 2018.
Ohio State fans feared he would choose Michigan but rejoiced when he announced he would be a Buckeye.
He then went about getting to know the coaching staff better, including strength and conditions coach Mickey Marotti, who apparently got the same false first impression as many others.
“Coach ‘Mick’ always says, ‘I hated you in recruiting. You would show up and not talk and mope around,’” Harrison recalled with a grin. “I’m like, ‘Coach, I didn’t like recruiting.’ I didn’t know anybody, so I’m not just gonna be like this around people I don’t know. It might be a little off-putting.
“I’ve been like this. The D-line room has seen this side of Zach. I feel like my close friends have seen this side of Zach. Now it’s really just you guys are the only ones who haven’t. So you’re seeing the real Zach, not just this side.”
Despite joining a position group loaded with talent, he saw time in 14 games as a true freshman and had 3.5 sacks, mostly in a reserve role.
He became a regular last year and logged a pair of sacks in seven games.
Now he is preparing to be one of the team leaders and shares a goal of turning more pressures into sacks this fall.
Pro Football Focus credited Harrison with 22 quarterback hurries last season while fellow end Tyreke Smith had 33.
They combined for only three sacks, though.
Being able to generate pressure is valuable, but the Buckeyes know they need to finish the job more often this season.
To do that, they are working on eliminating unnecessary movement to gain even a tad more quickness and studying film to learn new moves and opponent tendencies.
“Maybe flipping our hips or crossing our foot a little bit then crossing out wide and we were able to touch the quarterback instead of getting a clean sack,” Harrison said. “It’s small details but we’re working with .2 seconds before they’re getting the ball off. So Coach (Johnson) is making sure we’re working on our Ps and Qs, and that’s with each other, too. During the reps I’ll talk to all the other D-linemen about maybe you need to tighten up or do this, that or the third to get there instead of just getting a pressure.”
Smith said he was working on using his hands better and turning the corner faster.
“We had a lot of just-missed sacks, so we’ve just got to go out there and get better,” Smith said. “It’s the little things that amount to big things. When you look at the pressure rate, it makes you think, ‘Is there something else I can work on?’”
While leading edge rusher Jonathan Cooper (3.5 sacks) is gone, the Buckeyes also need to replace the three sacks Tommy Togiai notched from the interior.
Taron Vincent, a fourth-year junior who arrived highly touted but has been held back by injuries, is looking to fill the void whether he is at nose tackle or three-technique (the other tackle position).
“I have all the confidence in the world right now,” an upbeat Vincent said Tuesday. “I can bring energy to the whole defense. I can motivate guys to keep going. That’s just what we’re gonna do.
“I’m physical and I’ve got speed. I bring both.”