Watching from the sideline just doesn’t sit well with Damien Harris, but that’s exactly what he was forced to do at last weekend’s Columbus Nike Football Training. The four-star running back is still rehabbing his surgically repaired elbow.
“It should only be another week or two,” Harris said regarding his return to action. “I’m working on range of motion stuff right now… strengthening exercises, but it won’t be very long. A couple more days.”
Not surprisingly, though, Harris’ resume is so decorated that he didn’t need to actually participate in the camp to earn an invite to The Opening. He also didn’t need to participate to generate a great deal of recruiting buzz. Rumors regarding his leaderboard have run rampant in recent weeks with some proclaiming Ohio State to be his leader. Others have pegged Kentucky the favorite. After losing his commitment last winter, Michigan has supposedly fallen precipitously down his list. None of the above is true according to Harris.
“Those schools are all towards the top,” he said. “There are a lot of schools that I have at my top, but I don’t have a clear favorite right now. I’m going to come out with a top eight list here within the next week. By then I’ll have sat down with my mom and my coach. What school do I really think is the best for me? That school will be the leader for now. You know things are subject to change based on how things go down farther down the road. All this talk about who is my number one, but I haven’t really said anything yet. So I’m trying to figure out where all these people got it from. There are definitely a lot of schools that are definitely up there. There are some schools that I really like, but I wouldn’t say I have a favorite right now.”
So what does that mean for Michigan? What feelings do his one-time clear-cut favorite elicit?
“That’s the question that I always get asked,” Harris stated. “People think that just because I decommitted (and) I don’t visit as much as I used to… that I don’t still have love for Michigan. I just don’t understand because I had to commit for a reason. There is obviously something there that I loved. Feelings haven’t changed for Michigan at all. It is just I was committed and of course all my attention was on that one school, but now that I’m decommitted and all my options are open I’m looking at a bunch of different schools. So just because I don’t go to Michigan as much or talk about Michigan as much, it doesn’t mean that I have completely forgotten about them. It just means that I’m still looking at other schools and see where I can get with those schools.”
Among the objectives for Michigan in its quest to re-earn Harris’ pledge is to grow the relationship between him and new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier. They’ve made a great deal of progress so far, but there is still a long way to go.
“I love Coach Nussmeier,” said Harris. “He seems like a great coach, a great guy. It is just hard because he came in kind of late. He told me to try and give him a chance to develop a relationship with him. Whenever he first got there he knew I was in the process of decommitting, so he just laid back. Now we’ve got to communicate more over the summer, planning visits and getting to each other a lot better on a different type of level, on a higher level. Just so that we can try to clear things up, see if he is somebody that I would like to be coached by and (Michigan) is still a place that I would like to go to.”
Another coach that will have a huge say in Harris’ assessment of fit is his would-be position coach Fred Jackson.
“Coach Jackson, he is a funny guy,” Harris said. “The thing I like about him is that he proves to me of what he can do, who he has coached, and what he has done in his coaching career just to try and show me that he can develop me just as well if not better than anybody else in the country. I love that competitive nature about him. He tries and competes with other coaches to try and prove that he can develop me better, just as good as anybody else. He just comes in and he tells me what his plans are for me if I were to be one of his players. We just kind of talk about how things will go in the future and things like that.”
Stay tuned for part two of this interview in which Harris discusses the players he converses with about attending the same school (including his recent contact with Alex Malzone), his decision criteria, timeline, and more. In the meantime be sure to check out the first half of our video interview with Harris below.