Harris says he's just taking this season in stride and trying to enjoy the gifts he's been given. "I really try not to think about it because then I get all excited, and I lose focus with the game plan," said Harris about playing as a freshman. "I never expected to start. I'd hoped to play, maybe as a backup role, late in the games. In terms of being a starter, it's been unbelievable. They guys have been really great. On the field, the first time, it's all surreal."
Harris says he was actually more nervous for his second start, than his first. "I wasn't really nervous at Pittsburgh, when I got here, it's was like ‘whoa.' You're here playing, and you have all these fans with you, and it's just unbelievable. Now it's become more of a part of me. Playing in the game is just a part of me."
Learning how play well along the offensive line takes practice. Harris says to play well in games, you need game experience. "The things you learn in a game, no one can teach you or prepare you for. Things usually don't go how they're drawn up. That's just something that you've got to get used to. Another thing is the defense will show you what they are going to do before they do it. You learn when the backer is coming, and when he's not coming, when he's just bluffing it."
Offensive linemen are taught proper technique, balance, staying low out of their stance, but the real secret is learning how to cheat, just enough to not get caught—so I'm told. We asked Harris if the older offensive linemen have given him the tricks of the trade.
"They taught me some things," said Harris laughingly. "Some of the things you want to pick up, I don't know if some of the things you do want to pick up. They've definitely helped me out, Jimmie Molinaro, especially. Playing the position of tackle, hand placement, just different tricks of the trade that once again, you learn playing, that you can't ever practice."
A lot of Harris' classmates are red-shirting this year. Harris says he's thankful he's able to play. "I'm very fortunate to get in this year. Some friends ask me ‘do you feel like you've wasted a year?' I'm like "no, I've learned so much, and the offensive line is coming together even though we're losing.' There's still some good things coming on, and there's still some goals we want to achieve."
Since Harris has been inserted into the lineup, the Irish offensive line has become much more effective. Harris takes none of the credit, he says everyone has come together, and that is their reason for the success they have had.
"Everybody is just done with growing pains. At Pittsburgh, we were really on top of our game and executed the way we know how to execute. It's a matter of staying in the game and playing a full four quarters."
Being a freshman isn't easy. Harris said he's been reminded he's a freshman a number of times from the opposition. "At one point in the game, I think his name is (Kenechi) Udeze, he goes ‘come on, you're a freshman.' And I said ‘yeah, I'm going to be back here next year.' I'm just going to work that much harder in the off-season because I know what it's like, I know where I need to get stronger, and where I'm good at. It's going to be a matter of working on my weaknesses, and coming out and balling out as hard as I can."
Harris says he does here some talking across the line of scrimmage, and the Trojans did the most talking. "Early in the game, it started at BC, and USC. Florida State, he didn't say anything the entire game. SC was probably the biggest talkers. That's all talk, it comes down to what happens between the snaps."
The offensive line has gone from weakness to one of the strengths on offense, at least in the passing game. Harris believes this line could be something special in the future. "The chemistry is coming together. Unfortunately, we're going to lose Jim Molinaro, the leader of our offensive line, next year. All of us will be roughly juniors or sophomores next year. We already hang out together. We're making sure we're coming closer together."
Harris is not sure what the plans are for him. He initially started playing at left tackle but was moved to playing right tackle to shore up the line. Harris said his future likely won't be decided until spring time. "The last time I talked to Coach Denbrock about any position was when he moved me to right tackle. I think that's something we'll work on towards spring ball and see where everybody is at health-wise, and where everybody's ability is at."
The future is very bright for Ryan Harris. He should be a rock for which this staff can build upon. If they can find a few more like him, they could turn this thing around rather quickly.