Scout.com takes a deeper look at four-star running back Damien Harris following our game day visit to watch the No. 1 back in the country.
Rockcastle County (Ky.) at Madison Southern (Ky.)
Just like the weather, Scout.com No. 1 running back Damien Harris was slow to get started before he struck like the lightning that halted the game before being called after halftime. Harris saw his first five carries net a negative 11 yards with a fumble that was recovered by his teammates. However, in the second quarter, Madison Southern head coach Jon Clark moved Harris into the Wildcat position and on the second play of the possession with Harris taking a direct snap and floating to the right until he saw an opening he quickly hit racing 75 yards for the score.
His second and final score of the night came after the Eagles coaching staff did a great job of managing the clock and getting the ball back near midfield with 30 seconds left in the half. Harris again lined up in the Wildcat and took another direct snap going left before finding a hole and racing for a 56-yard touchdown giving Madison Southern a 24-7 advantage that stood as the game was called before the teams could start play in the third quarter. For the night, Harris would finish with 123 yards and two touchdowns while also playing a little defense for the Eagles.
No stopwatches come in play when a player is in game action and while 40-yard-dash times can often overshadow a prospects true ability, Harris showed his speed on runs of 75-yards and 56-yards that went for touchdowns. Is Harris a true 4.3 or 4.4 forty guy? It doesn’t matter as he shows enough speed to hit the outside and break free for solid runs.
Running backs come in several different sizes but Harris has the build pro teams look for at 5-foot-10, 210-pounds. His physical build is made to be a running back as he’s think in the thigh area with a solid rear end. So he’s got the base needed to play the position and be more of a power back.
RUNNING THE BALL
This is the area we looked at closely during the game as you want a back that can run inside and outside.
On this night Harris had problems running inside as Rockcastle loaded the box and defeated the efforts of the Madison Southern offensive line. The results left questions on the ability of Harris being able to break tackles and get away from first contact on inside running plays as he went down without much of a fight.
Again, defenders where at his feet at the time the quarterback was handing off the ball and the fact we only saw two quarters of football means we didn’t get to see Harris over the course of an entire game.
In his current offense Harris lines up next to the quarterback and is never given the chance to be in an I-formation that allows him to build up a head of steam. This is an area to watch in the future as we never got a chance to see Harris plant his foot and cut through an inside lane. Is this a long term issue to be concerned about or just the way the defense looked to take the biggest weapon on the field out of the game on this given night.
Running on the outside is where Harris left his mark as he was placed in the Wildcat formation with a zone blocking scheme that allowed for him to flow with the traffic until he found an open lane. Once Harris found his opening there was no doubt in his ability to burst through the lane for big gains. This is where he showed his speed as he was by far the fastest player on the field.
Like most standout high school running backs, you never get a chance to see everything you want to see. Harris was not asked to come out of the backfield on this night to catch a pass and we only saw him on a couple of occasions having to block. When he did block, he had no problem putting a shoulder down to stop an oncoming rusher. Blocking is something almost all backs that produce high offensive numbers have to work on at the next level and we have no concern Harris can get the job done. As for catching the ball, we watched pregame work and saw nothing to concern us with his ability to also have this in his arsenal.
One area many will look at when judging Harris is the lack of quality competition. Is Harris seeing the best of the best? No, but, he’s got the raw tools to play and dress for any team in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
In the end we liked what we saw out of Harris on this night but would have liked the chance to see a four quarter game. The biggest thing we didn’t get to see was Harris taking a handoff, planting his foot and exploding through a hole. However, getting the chance to see him take reps on defense showed he’s not a one trick pony. All the tools are there but like all high school players there are things that need work and a period of adjustment that will have to be made.