Impact Players

Ryan Day of Ohio State gives high praise to Najee Harris, as he knows the Buckeyes are in for a battle

Najee Harris hurdles over a Notre Dame defender
Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr/The Tuscaloosa News via USA TODAY Sports

As concerned as Alabama fans are about Trey Sermon, Ohio State is more worried about Najee Harris.

When he goes against the best competition, the senior from California gets very excited and his confidence grows.

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In coming back for this season, he has met his individual goals, team goals and improved his NFL Draft status. Harris leads all running backs in the NCAA for rushing touchdowns (24) and has 27 total scores. He tallies 1,387 yards rushing on 229 carries, to a tune of averaging 115.6 yards per game. Harris chimes in with six 100-yard performances, but his outings versus Ole Miss (206), Georgia (152), LSU (145), Florida (178) and Notre Dame (125) were all legendary in the Crimson Tide’s return to the playoff.

The 6-foot-2, 230-pounder also has 36 catches for 346 receiving yards.

His versatility proved to be special in the SEC Championship Game, as he collected five receptions for 67 yards and three touchdowns in Alabama’s 52-46 victory over the Gators.

Ohio State has to be focused on everyone in Steve Sarkisian’s explosive offense, including Harris out the backfield. Ryan Day is very aware of it and in Sunday’s presser, he praised Harris’ versatility.

“Yeah, I think Najee Harris is playing at a high level this season,” Day said.

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“I think that a big part of it is the offensive line, the tight ends, how well they block. But he’s running really hard. When you get him to the second level, he can make guys miss in a variety of ways. I think he runs hard. He falls forward a lot. He’s also done a good job in the pass game, in protection. He’s caught balls as a receiver. He’s caught balls coming out of the backfield, his check-downs. So he’s a complete back. He’s probably the most versatile guy we’ll see all year.”

He won the Doak Walker Award, was named first-team All-SEC and was an Unanimous All-American selection, but Harris now wants to finish his career as a national champion.

A two-time 1,000-yard rusher, the Buckeyes will have its hands full with Harris inside HardRock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.

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Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @CoachingMSmith

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