Charles Harris wasn’t shy on Wednesday talking about some lofty goals.
The University of Missouri's standout redshirt junior defensive end was one of three student-athletes representing the Tigers at SEC Media Days and it sounds like he was a hit with reporters.
Harris certainly wasn’t shy about what he wants to accomplish.
A second-team All-Southeastern Conference selection following his breakout 2015 campaign, Harris wants more in 2016 and 2017.
First, he’s planing on breaking former teammate Shane Ray's single-season record for sacks.
“I already told him,” Harris told reporters. “Shane Ray, I’m going to put him in hot water this year. The record is 14.5. I’ve got to get to 15.”
Harris recorded seven sacks a year ago, which tied for the team high, but also led the SEC with 18.5 tackles for loss. He proved himself to be a difference-maker for a defense that ranked as one of the best in college football.
He also may not be around college football much longer.
In addition to Harris issuing a public warning on Wednesday about aiming for Ray’s record, he openly talked about the possibility of leaving school early to enter the 2017 NFL Draft.
“It’s amazing, and nothing I would have thought about three years ago,” Harris told College Football 24/7. “It’s definitely a blessing and an honor, but I have to be smart about when to go and when not to go. The (NFL) is always going to be there. ... I feel like I’m going to be the best to ever do it. So why not go first (round)? Why wouldn’t I be first (round)?”
Harris just might be. He’s already garnered some early draft buzz and was recently named to the preseason watch lists for the Chuck Bednarik and Bronko Nagurski awards, both of which are presented to the defensive player of the year in college football.
The Tigers have had eight first-round picks in the past 16 years and five of them have been defensive linemen: Justin Smith (2001), Ziggy Hood (2009), Aldon Smith (2011), Sheldon Richardson (2013) and Ray (2015). The Tigers have also had two defensive ends picked in the second round — Kony Ealy (2014) and Golden (2015) — in the last three drafts.
Missouri coach Barry Odom was asked about Harris on Wednesday and pointed to the defensive end continuing the Tigers’ tradition of talented defensive linemen.
“University of Missouri has got a long run of great defensive linemen, and it started with Justin Smith back he and I were teammates, and then Larry Smith coached him and then moved into Coach (Gary) Pinkel, and every year it kind of continues to progress,” Odom said. “And Charles is one of the next great ones, in my opinion. If you come and watch us practice on Tuesday afternoon, it looks like it's game day and it's fourth and one. I think that sets him apart. He’s got an inner drive and demeanor that he wants to be the best.
“He also realizes that, as all those guys do up front, they’ve got a tremendous responsibility on trying to carry that torch on the guys that were playing the position before him, and that means a lot to him.”
Harris acknowledged that tradition on Wednesday.
“When we have freshmen coming in we show them a clinic tape of Michael Sam and Markus Golden,” Harris told reporters. “We show them guys who came before us and sowed the seed of who we are. If you watch the highlights you will get a feel of the tenacity that is required to be at Mizzou and be on the defensive line. Before everything went down last year we were looking to dominate and this year we are looking for great numbers as well.”
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