Harris comfortable moving to STAR linebacker

Sophomore linebacker moved outside following Jairus Jones' injury and is the No. 2 behind Taiwan Jones.

Michigan State moved Jairus Jones from safety to linebacker in the spring, but with Jones with an injury, more shuffling at linebacker has taken place.

Sophomore Darien Harris, who was backing up Max Bullough at the middle linebacker spot, has moved outside as the No. 2 behind Taiwan Jones.

"(Harris is) an every-down STAR," linebackers coach Mike Tressel said. "Any time, especially a younger guy who doesn't have a ton of game experience, if you can get him to focus on one position, that is better for your team."

Tressel said before Jairus Jones' injury, MSU had seven guys in the two-deep with flexibility with Harris and senior Kyler Elsworth, but that MSU won't miss a beat with Harris on the outside.

"His mental part of the game and knowledge was fine at all positions, but it sure is nice getting the reps at only one spot," he said.

Harris said he is comfortable at the STAR spot – the position he was recruited to play.

"That's where I played my first two years," he said. "It's an easy transition for me. It fits me there with my athleticism and I know the position. MIKE was a new spot for me, STAR is where I really feel comfortable."

Harris, who has two tackles this season, said he learned a lot from Bullough during fall camp working at middle linebacker.

"I try to study with him and he keeps me up to date on things," Harris said. "He texted me the other night telling me what I did right and what I did wrong to help me out. He's been a big asset to my transition to the middle and just being able to play all the linebacker positions."

Heading into the Iowa game, Harris is looking forward to squaring off against a couple of his high school teammates from DeMatha High School (Washington D.C.). He also said playing at a high school power like DeMatha was great preparation for playing at Michigan State.

"It gives you the advantage in terms of football knowledge, but also in terms of expecting to win," he said. "The competition was great even in situations like this and playing Iowa so I'm playing against two of my old teammates in Darian Cooper and Jordan Lomax.

"Getting the opportunity to play against guys that I played with in high school is a big advantage and a big upside for me because it gets me fired up for these games even more. It makes a little personal for me as well."

Junior Mylan Hicks also has been working out at the STAR linebacker position. Tressel said Hicks is doing well.

"I've seen a motor, a guy that just cuts it loose and runs around," he said. "He doesn't have to worry about as many what we call fatal mistakes up there playing that star position, so he can just use his motor and be reckless."

Tressel said Harris is the No. 2, but it is likely Taiwan Jones will play the bulk of the snaps, even in the nickel set.

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