Freshman Wide Receiver Melvin Harris, who is 6-6 and a wiry 200 pounds, was honored during bowl practices.
He was chosen to portray Texas Tech All-American WR Michael Crabtree, replete with Crabtree's #5 jersey.
"I know I'm not Michael Crabtree - yet," said Harris, "but I was honored the coaches selected me to imitate him in the practices to try to give our defense the closest look to him they could get."
Harris, who is still a "pup" in college football circles - he still wears braces on his teeth, did not disappoint.
During one practice, Harris caught three long TD bombs from QB Nathan Stanley, who had the chore of replicating Tech QB Graham Harrell. His performance drew the praise of one Houston Nutt.
"Melvin has a chance to be special," Nutt said. "He hasn't even scratched his potential, but already he has gone from a 175-pound bencher to nearly 300 pounds, his broad jump is over 10 feet, his vertical is around 36" and he's put on nearly 20 pounds of good weight since he has arrived here.
"He reminds me a lot of Marcus Monk, but I think he's a better athlete at this stage of his career and I think he has a lot more potential because Melvin is not gangly or awkward. He's smooth and has good body control. If he keeps working hard under (S&C Coach) Don Decker and his staff, I think he can be a great wideout in this league. It's all up to him and all in front of him."
Harris, who smiles all the time and has now become known for his backflips at midfield after a Rebel win, is excited about his future.
"I listen to everything the coaches say. They know what they are doing and I can tell a difference in my play since I arrived here, despite having a broken foot in the summer," Harris noted. "All you have to do is pay attention and do everything they ask and you automatically get better.
"They have a great routine here. They work you hard, but they give your body time to recover. They also pinpoint what you need to improve and set your workouts aimed at those areas. I couldn't be happier with where I was and where I am now in my development, and I owe it to them."
Melvin has grown close to Wide Receivers Coach Ron Dickerson as well.
"He teaches, he doesn't yell," said Harris. "For a young guy, who is nervous in the first place, that method of teaching relaxes you and gives you confidence. Coach Dickerson always has ways for you to do something better and, like I said, if you listen, you benefit."
Confidence has been a key factor in Melvin's late surge.
"Coach Decker has taught me to listen to my body and to trust it," Harris added. "The extra 20 pounds and the extra strength I have gained don't mean anything if you don't understand it and use it to your advantage.
"I don't get knocked off my routes as much any more and I can tell the added strength has helped my speed and agility. I was thin and frail, but now I'm starting to fill out, I'm stretching and getting more flexible, and I'm feeling faster and more athletic."
Dickerson said Harris' skills with the ball in the air are advanced. Not a finished product, but good for a freshman.
"Melvin has good hands and he adjust his body with the ball in the air. He uses his body pretty well for a young guy. There's still a lot more for him to learn, but he has improved a lot since the start of fall camp," Ron noted. "I can tell a lot of difference in his strength level and in the way he runs his routes now. He runs them with confidence and authority.
"And the thing you have to remember about a kid who is 6-6, he's sometimes not covered even when someone is on him tight, if that makes sense, because he can out jump them and position himself to make the catch by using his body."
Harris said his goal for the 2009 season is to get in the playing rotation and to get his body up to about 220 pounds.
"That's only 20 more pounds. I should be able to do that easily," he stated. "If I can get in the 220-225 pound range, I can play any position they want me to play, including some tight end if they need me.
"Long-term, I can see myself as a 235-pounder. I'm still young and I got the advantage of redshirting, so time is on my side. Really, I can't wait for next year and the years beyond. I just want to play and help this team and prove what I can do."
Those goals may be reached quicker than anyone thinks.
Melvin Harris played the role of Michael Crabtree in early bowl practices and will do the same when the team resumes workouts in Dallas for the Cotton Bowl today.
One day, he hopes to be like the real Crabtree.
"Why not? I've got the frame and the desire," he closed.
Indeed. Why not?
Melvin Harris -
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