Hammerin' Harris

While junior LaRod Stephens-Howling is still the starter and freshman LeSean McCoy is a star in waiting, the most surprising running back during Pitt's training camp this past week as been Shariff Harris.

A 6-foot-1, 190-pound freshman from St. Peters Prep School in Newark, N.J., Shariff Harris has the speed and slashing ability that Stephens-Howling possesses, as well as the power and cutting ability that McCoy displays. And University of Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt had another observation.

"Shariff Harris, he's an interesting guy,'' Wannstedt said after Pitt's first practice in full gear Saturday. "He's real explosive, and he might be might be the strongest of all the backs that we have with the ball in his hands.''

Harris got a lot of carries Saturday because Stephens-Howling has been held back to give the younger guys a good look, and fellow frosh Greg Williams has been nursing a knee injury. He sat out the afternoon, but should return soon.

"I had a pretty good day, a pretty good practice, but it's hot,'' Harris said. "I still have a lot to learn, since I'm a freshman, but I'm competing with LeSean and working hard. There's a lot of running backs, a good competition, but I think we all get along pretty well and are working together to get better.

"Now that we're in one group with the veterans, it's really something. You get to feel the real college football, getting hit hard and getting right back up. And you get hit again from every different angle. The game is so fast, but you just have to learn how to deal with it. And I'm trying to dish it out, too.''

Just ask freshman safety Dom DeCicco about that. DeCicco, a second-team player in just his first year, had a terrific practice Saturday. But on one confrontation with Harris, he could've taken a better angle to make the tackle. He hit Harris high on his pads and was shrugged off with no problem.

Harris ripped off several big gains on sweeps around an end, but he also displayed the power needed to run the ball between the tackles in Pitt's offense. This delighted Wannstedt and offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh, but Harris was quite humble when asked about his success.

"The game is just so fast, and there's a lot to learn,'' Harris said. "So, I just have to keep my head in the playbook. Coach Wannstedt has just kept preaching that to us, to work as hard off the field as we do on it.

"So, that's what I try to do. Everybody on this team has talent, but the difference is going to be who learns the playbook and can do what they tell us to do. The guy who picks things up the fastest will play the most.''

It's a good bet that Harris will get a lot of playing time this season.

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