Paul can do it all

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One member of Tennessee's 2013 signing class can fill just about every role on a football field. He's so gifted in one area, however, that his other skills may never be utilized on The Hill.

That player would be Paul Harris. That gift would be catching passes.

Harris is a 6-foot-4, 195-pounder from Frederick Douglass High in Accokeek, Md., who picked the Vols over such notable programs as USC, Oregon, Ohio State, Georgia and Auburn.

"He had a slew of teams after him," Douglass High head man Julius Pinkney told InsideTennessee by phone. "He had 20-plus offers."

Harris, who graduated from high school at mid-term and already is enrolled at Tennessee, attracted those offers because of a rare blend of size, speed, athleticism and hands.

"At the high school level you typically don't get kids in the 6-3/6-4 range with his type of speed and athleticism," Pinkney said. "That was his major advantage. I haven't clocked him in the 40 but I'd say he is a high 4.4 to low 4.5 guy. His top-end speed is where he stands out. He's a strider. I haven't seen anybody catch him.

"I guess the best thing is that he's blessed with really good hands but he has good size and uses his body well."

After scarcely playing as a sophomore, Harris exploded as a junior — catching 39 passes for 735 yards (18.8 per catch) and 12 touchdowns in leading his team to a runnerup finish in Maryland's Class 2A playoffs. Although he was a marked man as a senior, he posted virtually identical stats in 2012 — parlaying 32 receptions into 732 yards (22.9 per catch) and 11 touchdowns, while again guiding his team to a second-place finish.

"He had a really good senior year," Pinkney said. "He had more catches and more touchdowns as a junior but that was before anybody knew about him. The coverage changed quite a bit this year."

Another factor that may have affected Harris' senior receiving stats was the fact he was the busiest man on the field when Douglass High played. He returned six punts for 183 yards, an average of 30.5 per touch. He returned five kickoffs for 193 yards, an average of 38.4, with an 85-yarder included. He averaged 29 yards as the team's punter. He also handled the kickoffs, field goals and PATs, booting a game-winning 26-yard field goal in the final minute of a 29-27 upset of Patuxent High. Harris also found time to record an interception and six tackles as a part-time defender.

"He did so much," Pinkney said. "He kicked for us, punted for us, returned kicks, played receiver and played a little bit of safety on a need basis. It depended on who we were playing (how much defense Harris played) but he was a pretty rangy safety."

Harris, who also ran track in high school, has tools similar to those of recent Vol wideout Justin Hunter. Still, Harris may be a year away from making a major impact for the Big Orange.

"His size and his natural strength are going to help him," Pinkney said, "but Paul's got a lot to learn. He only got significant playing time as a junior and senior. The quality of football in the SEC is just a shade below the NFL, so he's going to have to adapt.

"I think it might take him about a season to get acclimated to the speed and physicality there."


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