What Ohio State Must Show 5-Star Running Back Damien Harris on Official Visit

David RegimbalFeatured ColumnistSeptember 3, 2014

Credit: 247Sports

Five-star running back Damien Harris is one of the most highly-recruited prospects in the country, boasting offers from schools such as Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Oklahoma and Texas A&M.

This Saturday, he'll be in Columbus to watch Urban Meyer and the No. 8 Ohio State Buckeyes take on the Virginia Tech Hokies. The prime-time matchup will bring a number of other elite recruits to Ohio State, including fellow 5-stars Josh Sweat and Kevin Toliver II.

Harris—the No. 1-ranked running back in the country and Ohio State's top remaining target—will be on the receiving end of Meyer's strongest recruiting pitch this weekend.

What will that look like?


Building the Relationship

This time last year, Harris was a month removed from announcing his verbal commitment to Brady Hoke and Michigan. Then-Wolverines offensive coordinator Al Borges had built a strong relationship with the speedy running back from Berea, Kentucky, which was instrumental in landing his pledge.

That's why it wasn't surprising when Harris decommitted from Michigan when Borges was fired last January.

It's clear that Harris wants a strong connection with his future coaching staff. According to Ari Wasserman of The Plain Dealer, Harris has a great relationship and respect for Meyer:

It's still kind of cool the way things go with Coach Meyer. As a kid growing up, I'd see him on TV and I was like, 'Man, he's the man.' And now I get to be real cool with him. We walk into a basketball game together, we just get to enjoy life together right now -- maybe for the next four years.

It's definitely been a blessing. I get to be looked at as important enough to spend time with one of the greats of all time. It's definitely an honor. I don't take it for granted. I'm real thankful for it.

Enhancing that relationship should be Meyer's top priority this weekend.


A Chance to Play Early

Elite prospects have a wide-ranging checklist for the schools they're considering, whether it's superior academics, proximity to home or schematic fit, but most would jump at the opportunity to play as a true freshman.

Damien Harris rushed for 2,621 yards and 42 touchdowns during his junior season.
Damien Harris rushed for 2,621 yards and 42 touchdowns during his junior season.Credit: 247Sports

That's something Meyer offers at Ohio State, with the simple caveat that the first-year player is ready to contribute. 

That philosophy evolved after the Buckeyes coaching staff held too many freshmen out in 2013. Speaking to ESPN's Brian Bennett, Meyer lamented that mistake and vowed to correct it.

“We redshirted too many last year, and that was our fault,” Meyer said. "When they show up on campus, we need to get them ready to play.”

Harris will see that firsthand when true freshman Curtis Samuel rotates in at running back against Virginia Tech. Samuel was heavily involved against Navy last Saturday, leading all running backs with 45 rushing yards.

If he gets a similar workload against the Hokies, it would leave a great impression on Harris.


A Show in the 'Shoe

When Meyer took over at Ohio State, he pushed the administration to schedule more prime-time games in Ohio Stadium. The Buckeyes had only played at home—under the lights—just 10 times before the 2012 season. 

Meyer's lobbying worked. Ohio State played in three home night games in Meyer's first two years, and the Buckeyes are set to play three more this season. 

“There’s nothing like playing here at night," left tackle Taylor Decker said, according to James Grega Jr. of The Lantern. “The stadium is going to be packed. It’s going to be loud. Fireworks, lights, it’s just an awesome environment."

The electric atmosphere is also one of Ohio State's greatest recruiting advantages. Getting elite prospects in Ohio Stadium for a prime-time matchup can set the Buckeyes apart.

“[Night games] are different and look really cool,” tight end Nick Vannett said, via Wasserman of The Plain Dealer. “I think that makes a difference to recruits when they see them.”

Getting a win certainly helps as well. With Meyer at the helm, the Buckeyes are a perfect 3-0 in home night games. 

Beating Virginia Tech Saturday night could secure another victory for Meyer down the road in the form of Harris' commitment.


Recruiting information via 247 Sports. Stats via OhioStateBuckeyes.com. 

David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.