The beginning of Andre Harris' junior year at Pacific Palisades brought change in the form of a new coaching staff. The new staff struggled early trying to fit all the pieces of the puzzle together. It wasn't until the third game of the season that Harris secured the starting running back slot, and Harris responded with a 212-yard performance on just 10 carries. By the end of a 1-9 season, Harris had amassed 900 yards on 106 carries.
Even though the team struggled to win games, Harris had the starting running back position locked up. So why transfer schools?
"Palisades Charter is geared toward academics. The football program is kind of an afterthought," explained Harris, "My mom was moving to the Taft area and my former coach knew the coach at Taft so he recommended me. It all just worked out well.
"Taft is just a really good football program. They've produced a lot of good players and they always have good teams. It's a lot different than my old school, but I like the competition of a program like this. Right now we're lifting and conditioning--it's year round at Taft."
So what type of running back is Taft getting in Harris?
"I'm a power back and I have enough speed to get to the outside," Harris explained. "If I had to compare my style of running to someone, I'd probably compare myself to Jamaal Lewis.
"I'll go inside or outside, it really doesn't matter to me. I probably won't put a ton of moves on you, but I will run you over. I have pretty good hands, and like to catch the ball out of the backfield. Last year the coaches would flair me out as a release valve."
I asked Harris to describe a play from last year that would demonstrate his running ability.
"I got the ball moving to the right and the defense started flowing that way. I cut it up against the grain and slipped a tackle. About 20 yards downfield, a couple defenders had the angle on me, but I cut back and split them – 70 yards later I was in the end zone," Harris said.
Is there a chance Harris would play defense in college?
"I've played strong safety on defense. I think I'm a pretty good defensive player, but I like the ball in my hands, and I definitely want to play running back at the next level," he said.
From what I had read about Harris' favorite schools, it seemed like an interesting mix of schools. UCLA, Cal, Florida State, Alabama and Notre Dame.
"Yeah those are the main schools." Harris said.
"Alabama invited to one of their camps. My dad likes Alabama. He's from Birmingham originally.
"My brother went to UCLA and there were my team growing up, but I'm not sure about them now. I am going to their junior day March 5th.
"Florida State sends me something almost every day.
"I like USC, but they're probably in with those other schools. They're just stacked at running back.
"Actually, right now, I'm concentrating on Notre Dame and Cal."
We asked Andre what he liked about Notre Dame.
"Notre Dame has solid academics and is a big-time football program," he said. "I don't know much about coach Weis, but I called Notre Dame and spoke with Coach Ianello. He seemed like a good guy. He told me about the coaching staff, and how they needed running backs since they didn't sign one in their last recruiting class. I'd like to play as soon as possible, so the situation at Notre Dame is attractive.
"Distance won't be a problem, and I like that it's (Notre Dame) not in a big city."
Has Harris had a chance to talk to any other coaching staffs?
"I haven't spoken to the Cal coaches yet, but I plan on it. I do like their program," he said.
Harris listed his core g.p.a as 2.8 and plans to take the SAT in March.
Comments: Andre is pretty laid back kid, but he has that "bring it on" attitude. He's looking forward to the increased competition at Taft. He's very confident in his abilities, and he has no problem with hard work. This is the type of player that Charlie Weis has talked about. This is the type of player Notre Dame needs in its program. There is a long way to go, but Notre Dame has a legit shot with this California star.