The 'other Harris' gearing up for August

OL Coach George DeLeone said recently that August practice will decide who plays where on the offensive line. It appears sophomore Darryl Harris, who was the number one left guard at the end of spring training, may be one of the players involved in the August experiment of finding the right position for each player.

Sophomore Offensive Lineman Darryl Harris played a tackle slot in 2004, undergoing some ups and downs that he calls "learning experiences."

When the new staff came aboard in January, Harris was moved to left guard, where he did well enough in spring training to be the number one guy.

Since then, OL Coach George DeLeone has also asked Darryl to learn to snap the ball in voluntary workouts.

So where will Darryl, an aggressive 290-pounder end up?

"I don't care," he said softly. "I just want to play wherever the coaches want me to play and wherever I can help the team. If they tell me to line up at tight end, I'll try to be the best tight end I can be.

"I've been snaping the ball about half the time in the passwing drills we've been running and I've been playing left guard the rest of the time. I think I proved to Coach (DeLeone) that I will work hard and do what it takes. Beyond that, whatever he wants is fine with me."

There is speculation going around the football team that Harris will get a crack at center when August rolls around in order to make more room at the guard slots for incoming freshman OG Michael Oher and converted DT Andrew Wicker, who is now an OG but had to sit out spring with a foot injury.

DeLeone recently told The Spirit that the center slot was wide open and little had been resolved in spring training there. Darryl may fit the bill, but there's still work for him to do.

"It's a big adjustment to have to snap the ball, make sure the exchange with the QB is perfect, which is your number one priority, and making a technique-sound first step almost simultaneously, but I've been working on it hard this summer," Harris explained. "To this point, the ball exchange has been pretty good, but my first step needs fine-tuning. I need a thousand reps - there's a skill to snapping the ball and firing off the line at the same time. Anyone can center the ball. Anyone can get in a stance and fire off the ball when it is snapped. But doing both at once takes practice and time."

Darryl said he's also dealing with the mental adjustment to center. Whether he ends up there or not, he said he has to be prepared as if he will and part of the center's job in Offensive Coordinator Noel Mazzone's offense is to call the line checks.

"It's not really that hard, but it is an added responsibility that guards don't have to do. All OL have to be in on the communcation among the linemen, but the center is in the middle of the line, so his responsibility is greater," Harris, who missed most of the his true freshman year with a back injury (he was subsequently redshirted), noted. "I know the calls from spring training, but now I have to make them when I'm playing center. It's not more difficult, but it's different."

Last season, when starter Bobby Harris (the other Harris on the OL) was injured, Darryl was thrust into a starting job at left tackle against Alabama in Tuscaloosa. He had a rocky start which led to him being yanked from the lineup during the course of the game. He didn't play much the rest of the year.

"I took it as a learning experience. I got a couple of penalties from being anxious and not wanting to mess up. I took the wrong alignments - instead of dropping back more, I was widening and getting beaten to the corner," he continued. "That game was not a very good feeling, but I didn't let it shatter my confidence."

Instead, Harris - who is known for his aggressivness - went back to the chalk board, the film room and the practice field to improve.

"You can't get discouraged when things don't go your way. It just made me work that much harder," Darryl said.

In the offseason and spring, Darryl focused on his physical development and his mental approach to football.

"I'm trying to get a bit bigger. I went into spring training weighing 298, but I couldn't hold it because I put the weight on too fast," he explained. "Now, at 290, my goal is to get to 295 for the season and to do it the right way so I can hold the extra weight.

"I've also tried to learn as much as I can in a short period of time. I watch a lot of film and learn from other players and from my mistakes."

Darryl said his back is "real good" right now and he plans on keeping it that way.

"As long as I do my stretching and abdominal work, my back is fine," he closed. "I just want to stay healthy and be the best I can be."

Nobody knows where Darryl Harris will end up by the time the first game rolls around, but just about everyone believes Darryl is in line to be named one of the best five OL on the team.

Center or guard? Makes no difference to him as long as he's on the field.

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