Jerrell Harris May Play Saturday

Necessity is the mother of invention. Alabama didn't wait until it was necessary to begin preparing Jerrell Harris for inside linebacker duty. Unfortunately, when the time came he might have been playing he was paying the price of indiscretion, sitting out six games for a reported NCAA problem.

That six-game suspension has been served, and Jerrell Harris may figure into Alabama football fans as early as this Saturday when the Crimson Tide hosts the South Carolina Gamecocks for homecoming.

Bama and South Carolina will kick off at 6:45 p.m. CDT in Bryant-Denny Stadium. ESPN will televise the game. Alabama is 6-0 and ranked second in the nation at the halfway point of regular season play. South Carolina is 5-1 and ranked 22nd nationally.

Alabama sophomore linebacker Dont'a Hightower suffered a season-ending knee injury against Arkansas. Alabama adjusted its linebacker corps through the remainder of the Arkansas game and against Kentucky, then inserted true freshman Nico Johnson at Hightower's weakside position last week against Ole Miss. That's the spot where Harris was being groomed to back up Hightower.

The pre-season depth chart issued by Alabama showed Harris as the back-up to Hightower. Then on the day of the season-opener against Virginia Tech in Atlanta, The University issued a press release saying Harris had been suspended from the team. It turned out to be a severe penalty, missing six games, half the regular season.

Harris had been an outside linebacker as one of the nation's top prospects at Gadsden City High School in 2007. As a true freshman last year he was a member of special teams and was a substitute outside linebacker, seeing duty in 10 games and making three tackles.

In the spring, Harris was moved to an inside position behind Hightower. The 6-3, 227-pounder continued at weakside linebacker (Will) in fall camp.

It remains to be seen if Harris can overtake Nico Johnson at Will. On Monday, Alabama Coach Nick Saban said, "I think that Nico is a fine young player and he did a good job in the game for us. There is lots of competition out there. We are going to get Jerrell Harris back and that's the position he plays, so those two guys will compete and get reps this week and later in the week, we'll have to make a decision as to who is most ready to play in certain roles, relative to how both guys can contribute. I think both guys can contribute. He (Johnson) did a good job, especially the first time out. He just played in regular and did a really good job on special teams as well. We are really pleased with his progress. As everyone on our team, we all can improve and that's what our focus is going to be."

Saban said that he had expected Harris to have a role, "but he's been out awhile." The coach called Harris "a very good athlete, a good player. He's instinctive, a play-maker."

Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy has been seeing Harris on the scout team for the past few weeks. "He has helped us," McElroy said. "He's athletic, rangy, slippery. He has talent and he understands football. He's worked extremely hard. I'm glad he's back. He should be beneficial."

Cornerback Javier Arenas said Harris "will bring a lot to the defense. HJe has versatility, intelligence, and knows the plays."

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