Heisman campaign heating up


COLUMBUS — The superlatives to describe Marvin Harrison Jr. are running thin as the spectacular junior receiver continues to run roughshod over nearly every defense he lines up against. On Saturday, Harrison posted his seventh 100-yard receiving game of the season while becoming the first player in Ohio State history to record consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons.

Harrison even got involved in the run game, scoring his first career rushing touchdown on Ohio State’s opening drive on a 19-yard end-around. He tallied three total touchdowns on the night, adding a pair of receiving touchdowns in the first half before being pulled at halftime, given the lopsided score.

There is little doubt Harrison is among the best players in the country, regardless of position, and is a near-lock to receive an invite to New York City as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. Whether or not he can win the award remains questionable, though, and history is not on his side. Of the 88 trophies awarded, only three receivers —Tim Brown, Desmond Howard, and Devonta Smith —have taken it home.

In Harrison’s favor, though, is a schedule that still features both an opportunity to pad stats against struggling Minnesota next week and a massive stage to conclude the regular season at Michigan that would allow him to present his case to the entire country. But while the Heisman talk won’t subside anytime soon, Harrison isn’t going to get caught up in the growing hype.

“I just want to beat the team up north and go to the Big Ten Championship (Game),” Harrison said following the game on Saturday. “I’ve been saying that all year, those are the two goals I had before the season even started. But I’m thankful to even be in the conversation. But there is a lot of football left to be played, and I’m just trying to do my best to help the team win.”

Ever humble, Harrison may not be willing to speak about his own Heisman Trophy campaign, but his teammates and coaches aren’t shying away from talking Harrison up as a worthy candidate.

“I can’t really quantify how impactful he is to this offense,” quarterback Kyle McCord said after the game. “In one-on-one situations, obviously, he wins. There are situations when he takes two defenders with him if they want to double him, and somebody else is open. He does a good job blocking, too. He just does so much for the offense.

“I think I said this a month ago, but if (the Heisman Trophy) truly goes to the best player, he has to be right there in contention.”

Ohio State head coach Ryan Day echoed McCord’s sentiment, noting the Heisman Trophy is meant to be more than a numbers award. However, he said the offense can’t get caught up in trying to force production for Harrison at the risk of harming the overall efficiency of the unit.

“That award is for the most outstanding player, not the player with the most stats,” Day said. “He certainly made a big impact on this game with three touchdowns —two receiving and one rushing —but really only played a half of football. But we try not to focus on that and just focus on what gives us the best opportunity to move the ball down the field.”

The reality is Day likely doesn’t need to go out of his way to find added production for Harrison, given what the receiver already means to the offense. As was evident in the first-quarter rushing touchdown, finding different ways to get the ball into Harrison’s hands will directly impact whether Ohio State can finish the regular season undefeated, and Day and his offensive coaching staff never stop looking for new wrinkles to make it happen.

Harrison’s dynamic skill set extends well beyond his ability to catch passes, making him more than capable of doing whatever Day and offensive coordinator Brian Hartline can scheme to get the ball to him. Just don’t expect that to ever include Harrison throwing the ball.

Asked, somewhat facetiously, if that’s ever been a consideration, Day smiled before saying, “We’re going to leave him to catching, I think. He could throw it alright, but not good enough. I’d have to look at it and see if he could do it. But he does a good job of catching.”

Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.

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