Maurice Harris

TE Coach Maurice Harris believes there will be success after Evan Engram

Ole Miss TEs Coach Maurice Harris loved Evan Engram like a son and wouldn't have traded him for any player in the country, but he is not mourning Evan graduating and is confident the future of his position is in good hands with the candidates he has available for the 2017 season as spring training opens up.

"I can't even measure what Evan meant to me and this program, but it's college football and you know they leave after three, four or five years," said Maurice. "Then, you start with someone else and coach them up and hope you get another Evan Engram, or someone even better."

With that attitude in tow, Harris is looking to the present and the future, not in the past.

"I am really excited about the players we have. Dawson (Knox) has had a tremendous offseason, (Octavious) Cooley is really picking up the schemes and Gabe (Angel) is doing a nice job for us," said Harris. "Also, when we go with a tight end on the ball, Ty Quick adds stability.

"The only thing I am upset about is that Jacob (Mathis) is not going to be out there with us this spring due to an injured foot that will take six weeks to heal. I wanted to have that big body out there and for him to learn and progress.

"I can't wait to get deeper into spring and watch these youngsters improve, and they will."

Octavious Cooley (USA Today images)

The goal for spring has several tentacles for Harris - developing leadership, learning a new system, determining who does what the best and so on.

"Dawson and Ty are my leaders in the room. I know that already. They are taking the bull by the horns in that department," he added. "I believe they will do fine with the learning curve of a new offense. One, because they are sharp kids and two because there is a lot of carryover from our offense from last year, probably 60% is the same. It's not as tough for the returning players because we can reference it with something we did last year and we can learn like that.

"The other thing is for us to get more physical and tough. Finish blocks, drive your feet through blockers. I know they can catch and run routes, I want to see them have a more physical mindset in the run game and that is something we are going to emphasize daily. I think we can start dominating opposing defenders now because we are bigger than we were with Evan. Evan was 235. Our smallest TE now is 235. There are also plays where we are the focal point - the catalyst for the play being a good play or not based on how we execute. We will focus a lot on those, obviously."

Knox, Harris said, has put on weight and is now more physical.

"He's 245-250 now. He has kept his speed up and he is stronger in the weight room than Evan was. He's also as fast as Evan," said Harris. "I need him to play with more confidence, but he will build that as he has more success and good reps in practice.

Jacob Mathis

"Cooley has gone the other way. He was almost 270 last season and is now in the 255 range. He's looking good and running good with it. He gets in and out of cuts as well as anybody. He explodes out of cuts, like Evan did. Gabe is now 235 and is also keeping his speed up. He is also a very good route runner. Ty has a very high football IQ, he is the most physical guy I have and I feel comfortable plugging him in anywhere."

Harris will also get Michael Howard some in some on-the-ball situations and in certain sets.

"He gives us a bigger guy who will be more physical on the line of scrimmage," Harris noted.

Harris said in this offense the tight end position will be easier.

"You have to have a very high football IQ to play in the system last year, but in this system under Coach (Phil) Longo, the tight end duties are more defined and there is less reading and reacting to do," he explained. "What we do now is that you are essentially a receiver, a fullback and an offensive lineman, which is why I love coaching this position so much.

"We are involved in the run game, the passing game and protection."

Evan Engram was a stud, invaluable, but Harris believes the Reb TEs can keep trucking despite Evan's departure.

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