TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — When you read his bio, one thing jumps out about University of Alabama junior safety Ronnie Harrison, especially regarding the 2017 season.
It’s not that he was a quarterback before joining the Crimson Tide, although that is noteworthy as he put up impressive statistics.
It’s where he was a two-way player, Florida State University School.
Harrison is from Tallahassee, home of the Seminoles. He has spent a lot of time on campus, been to numerous games and attended the program’s junior day as a recruit. Only he didn’t sign with FSU for one crucial reason.
“They never offered,” he said.
It’s true. Although Harrison and wide receiver John Burt, who ended up at Texas, were considered the best hometown prospects in 2013, Jimbo Fisher’s staff passed. Florida State only signed 20 players that year and according to the 247 Sports composite rankings finished with the third-best recruiting class in the nation (behind Alabama and Southern California).
It included cornerback Tarvarus McFadden and defensive end Josh Sweat, the high-profile edge rusher who has had an injury-plagued career. Derwin James, the 5-star player out of Haines City, who was considered the top safety prospect in the nation, committed in February 2012, and was followed by Calvin Brewton and A.J. Westbrook — both are considered reserves.
With those two recruiting classes set to be at the forefront when Alabama opens its season against Florida State in Atlanta on Sept. 2, Harrison has a few things he wants to show the Seminoles.
“The thought is there,” was about all he conceded.
Nick Saban facing former assistant Jimbo Fisher will steal most of the headlines heading into the No. 1 vs. No. 3 showdown, according to the Amway Coaches Poll released by USA Today. The matchup of quarterbacks Jalen Hurts and Deondre Francois throwing against two stellar secondaries will be one to watch on the field.
James and Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick might be the nation’s two best defensive backs and there’s plenty of talent at the other positions, including Harrison.
He played a big part in the secondary making the transition to an established collection of standouts. Fitzpatrick moving from cornerback to safety after Jackson suffered a season-ending leg fracture against Texas A&M wouldn’t have worked so well if Harrison hadn’t stepped up his game.
The defense’s hardest hitter following the departure of Reuben Foster — something Harrison claimed as a goal last year, but now says “I’m not going to say that.” His 86 tackles were second on the Crimson Tide. He also made 2 interceptions and 2 fumble recoveries, returning 1 of each for a touchdown.
“At the end of the season, I feel like they created a little bond together because they spent a good stretch of the season next to each other,” Averett said about the Fitzpatrick-Harrison tandem. “I feel like they played very well together.”
Harrison is now looking to take the next step, and make anyone who overlooks him miserable. With 30 games of experience heading into his third year, he’s already been credited with 103 total tackles and 17 passes defended. Plus there are also those trademark hard hits.
They do their own talking and are something Florida State’s offensive players are already aware of, especially since Harrison is familiar with several players on the Seminoles’ roster.
Alabama also has Calvin Ridley (Fort Lauderdale), Daniel Wright (Fort Lauderdale), Jerry Jeudy (Deerfield Beach), Mac Jones (Jacksonville), Vandarius Cowen (Palm Beach Gardens) and Alex Leatherwood (Pensacola) from the Sunshine State.
But Harrison’s situation is a little different. This is the local program that rejected him.
“I haven’t really been talking to them, but people back home have been talking it up,” he said. “We respect them, have been watching film on them. We have to be ready for them.”