Freshman CB Matt Harris ready to go

Freshman CB Matt Harris staked his claim for playing time with an outstanding training camp.

After Godwin Igwebuike excelled in his practice field debut, a quieter defensive back recruit followed with his convincing case to play in year one.

In many ways, Matt Harris epitomizes the current "Northwestern recruit" mentality. He's not the flashiest player, but uses his versatility and natural smarts in adjusting to the collegiate level.

Harris hung around for second-team reps during drills. Though many true freshmen are immediately delegated to the scout team–and immediately tossed the redshirt status–Harris could sneak onto the roster this season.

It might take injury or poor performances ahead of him. But at the very least, Harris appears poised to play somewhere down the line.

"I'm trying to do my best to get on the field," he said. "I'll do whatever it takes to help the team. I'm out there giving it my all, and if that's going to get me on the field, okay."

Harris said the transition process has been mentally taxing, though he's mastered it so far. In a short period of time, the freshman class needs to learn complicated schemes. They then compete against guys who have been around for much longer, guys who know when to exploit their flaws.

"So far, I've got my concentration," Harris said. "It's been tough, just going out every day and learning new plays. I have to remember them on the field and actually apply them."

The mental game rules out most of these freshmen from playing. Fitzgerald said that in an ideal world, no first-year players would be on the field. Some–like Igwebuike and Harris–are prepared. The two defensive backs are the only candidates to play as true freshmen.

(Publisher's note: My latest guess is that Igwebuike has a 50 percent chance of playing and Harris about 20 percent. All others are just about guaranteed to redshirt, so mark that down.)

Harris credited the "veterans" with helping his development. It's mutually beneficial. Redshirt sophomore Nick VanHoose (after calling Harris a "standout") praised the freshmen for asking extensive questions. The new guys pick things up, while VanHoose and experienced players like Daniel Jones can assert themselves as leaders.

"It's been awesome. The [older guys] take us on because we're the freshmen," Harris said. "They've helped us with literally everything we've asked for.

"… It's about becoming comfortable with all of it. I feel like I'm getting there, and everyone is helping out."

As for the early stage of his college experience, Harris said he "loves every single bit of it." That might be easier to accomplish because he's already fighting to see the field.

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