IN THE HUDDLE: Xavier Harris

Lead one of the most talented areas in the state of Florida in receiving, and you find a way to attract attention. For this Broward County emerging star, there are plenty of positives on the horizon as colleges, including Rutgers, are keeping a close on him!

During the spring and into the summer, www.floridakids.us will bring you our IN THE HUDDLE segments with football players throughout the state of Florida.

These are similar to the evaluations we pass on to the hundreds of colleges who visit our website, call us on the phone and correspond via e-mail.

Here is another top football player to keep an eye on this season – and beyond.

PLAYER: Xavier Harris
POSITION: WR
SCHOOL: Fort Lauderdale
HEIGHT: 5-11
WEIGHT: 175
40 SPEED: 4.56
HEAD COACH: Charles Hafley
www.floridakids.us Pre-Spring Rating: 96.

There are many things that I have been taught by college coaches throughout the years that I have applied when evaluating talent. Some of those coaches who have gone on to brilliant collegiate and professional careers always taught me to understand the game when looking at a player.

"Look three years down the road," one coach told me. "Take in growth and maturity and try and add it to that package you are watching as a high school junior crosses that line into his final year."

I have been fortunate in the over three decades that I have walked practice fields and paced up and down playing fields to have a number of people who have explained the right way to evaluate talent. It has given me a true understanding of the game, and of course, what to look for in an athlete.

The reason I bring this up is Xavier Harris fits into the mold of players who you project. He burst onto the scene a year ago and led Broward County in receiving. I had the pleasure of watching him lineup against some quality defensive backs, and coming out on top several times.

There are so many things to understand about football in this state. One of them is if you lead a county, as prestigious and as talented as Broward, in any positive category, there is a good chance you will get recognized.

Unfortunately, Harris has not received the overall regional and statewide respect that he deserves as he took in several of Matt Johnson's passes and turned them into big plays.

As he heads into his final season, obviously there are questions to be answered, and although Johnson returns to throw the passes, the coaching staff has changed, and whether that will do anything to alter the way Harris approaches the game or not, is something that will be a wait and see until the late summer and into the fall.

Another major thing to comprehend is the district the Flying Ls compete in. Miami Edison, Miami Booker T. Washington and Miami Jackson for starters. It's a good bet that Harris will be tested in everyone of those games by state-rated defensive backs.

STRENGTHS: I sat there and charted passing plays last fall in two different games. The first thing you notice are his hands. He catches anything that even comes close, and although he paid for a number of catches in the games I watched, Harris showed me plenty of toughness.

On second down and 12, he went in motion, which not only brought a corner from the left side, but also caught, if you will, the attention of the free safety, who moved with him. As the ball was snapped, Harris did a quick out, used a tremendous head fake and then turned up field for another seven to eight yards. As it appeared he was going to continue his fly pattern, he broke off and cut into the middle, which gave him a five yard opening and he made the catch, falling to the ground.

When you see a high school football player, especially a junior, stick with a pattern and not break off from the original play, that makes me believe that you have a receiver who is locked in and very discipline.

The second play that I saw was another quick out. This time, isntead of heading up field after the head fake, Harris stayed there and caught a seven yard pass. After the catch, he showed just why he was one of the top pass catchers in Florida. He headed toward the middle of the field and and dashed his way some 22 yards. He gained 29 yards when he could have easily been trapped for just the original seven.

On the final play that I wanted to point out, Harris showed his ability to catch the ball in traffic. Remember, this isn't a 6-3, 210-pounder, but when you watch him play, his strength, leaping ability and great hands gives him a tremendous advantage. On the play, he went across the middle on a 15-yard slant, caught the ball in front of as safety who looked like he would pick the ball off, and then cut outside 56 yards for a score.

WHAT HE NEEDS TO WORK ON: Harris isn't a blazing quick runner, and at the next level, I expect him to be used as a short yardage receiver at first. He needs to work more on his shorter out patterns and try to save his body from wear and tear, which is tough when you are trying to help your high school team win. He will get stronger and one day will be able to take the pounding, but right now, he has to play on the positives, and that would be his knowledge of the position and catching the ball.

OVERALL: There are great football players who have size and speed, but forget how to catch the ball. Harris will be a major recruit because of the things I mentioned. He makes the tough catches and knows how to get yardage after the catch, which is something that colleges always look for.

COLLEGES ON THE HORIZON: There are a number of schools that Harris likes, but finding one that will fit his skill level is something that he and the coaches will try and determine.

At the Perfect Competion/FloridaKids.us Camp in March, he mentioned the University of Florida, Miami, FSU, Duke and Wake Forest as schools that caught his eye.


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