Junior OL Darryl Harris started his Rebel career at left tackle in 2003 fresh out of Clarksdale HS.
His aggressiveness and tenacity impressed the Ole Miss coaches to the point of being tempted to take off his redshirt jersey, but they resisted when he started having lower back problems.
In 2004, after missing 2004 spring training due to back surgery, Darryl was in the playing rotation, and actually got a start against Alabama.
"I realized after the Alabama game that I had a lot to learn, but I was willing to put in the effort. Then I got hurt and missed some time which sidetracked my progress."
When the coaching change rolled around, Darryl was moved to left guard and earned the starting nod in 2004 spring training, but between spring and fall, the coaches opted to put him at center where he started for the Rebels last season.
Now, he's come full circle - back to tackle, only this time on the right side.
Guess what? Harris doesn't care where he plays, as long as he plays.
"Man, I'll play wide receiver if the coaches ask me to," Darryl laughed. "This spring, Coach O introduced something that tells my story. The first team offense has navy blue jerseys and the second team offense has lighter blue jerseys. All I want is a navy jersey. That means I'm one of 11 who will be on the field for the first snap of 2006. That's my goal. What position I play is of no concern to me."
That's been Darryl's attitude since he arrived on campus as the not-so-highly-touted signee who played on the same high school team with a more highly-rated OL Marcus Cohen, who also signed with the Rebs.
"There are size and strength issues to deal with on this level for sure, but I found out early in my career that what it's all about is being aggressive on every snap, every day, and taking that same attitude into the weight room," said Darryl, an Honor Roll student at Ole Miss.
When new OL Coach Art Kehoe took over this spring, he saw the same attributes in Darryl that former OL coaches John Latina and George DeLeone saw - a willingness to stick his nose into the fray every single time.
"Darryl battles. He's not the biggest guy out there, but he has good feet and he's intense," Kehoe said. "I think we have him in the right place. He'll get the job done."
Harris feels very comfortable at RT.
"I feel I made the adjustment well. The only difference in LT and RT is that I now have a right hand stance. That's not a huge deal, it just takes some time getting used to," he allowed.
He's also a fan of the scheme Kehoe and new Offensive Coordinator Dan Werner have introduced.
"Coach Kehoe keeps things simple and both of them like the power game. We are coming off the ball more aggressively now, which I think fits our mentality as an OL group," Darryl said. "Coach Kehoe is fun to play for. He wants us to have fun and is full of energy. He's a teacher and he makes everything where we can understand how to do something and why we are doing it that way. I like that."
Darryl believes everyone on the OL benefitted from spring training.
"I saw a lot of improvement across the board," he stated. "If we stay on the path we started on in spring, we can have a good OL next year."
That "path" includes a monster offseason, not only for Darryl but for everyone.
"We all have a lot of work to do to get where we want to be," he continued. "My goals are to get stronger and put on a little weight. I'm 295 pounds right now, but I'd like to be at 300. (S & C) Coach (Aaron) Ausmus will get me right.
"I also have to do as many pass sets as I can in the offseason to get my technique perfect. The pass set is critical. We work inside out with our protections, but out on the island at tackle I have to always be aware of the speed rush on the edge and be prepared for it. What I have to work on is not oversetting to the inside or the outside. DEs in this league can attack either way and you have to be balanced to handle it."
As for his spring performance, he was somewhat pleased.
"I adjusted well, but I am not a finished product. The good news is that I have time to be a finished product by the time the first game rolls around," he ended. "I'm in the same boat as all the OL on this team.
"Michael Oher is new to LT, but he made excellent progress in the spring. Andrew Wicker is healthy now after a year of struggling with a foot problem and ended up srping on a strong note. Thomas Eckers did an excellent job at center for someone who has never done that before and he will only get better. And Mo Miller and James McCoy both stepped up their games in spring and battled for the navy jersey the whole time.
"I know we are headed in the right direction and believe we are going to be a lot better than some people believe in the fall."
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