High standards for Najee Harris

SAN LEANDRO, Calif. -- The top running back on the West Coast, regardless of class, has a strong interest in USC, even though he is committed to Alabama.

Running back Najee Harris still has two years of carrying the rock for Antioch (Calif.) High School, but that hasn’t stopped him from becoming one of the most prized recruits on the West Coast.

Harris is already the top running back on the West Coast for the 2017 class and would lead the rankings in the 2016 class as well. But unlike some five-star recruits that soak up the limelight and ham for the media attention, Harris prefers to avoid it all together.

Rather than standing in front of a camera with a microphone in his face, he would much rather be standing in front of a linebacker with the football in his hands. He’s all about competition and holds himself to a much higher standard. Even when he’s dominating, he feels like there is something he can be doing better.

At The Opening Oakland Regional, Harris was the best running back in action, showcasing his speed, agility and his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield with soft hands.

“I’m just trying to have fun. Trying to do the best I can, but at the same time have fun.”

He was performance was strong enough to earn one of the coveted invites to The Opening Finals in Oregon next month — a rare feat for an underclassman. Generally only a handful of top sophomores are invited to The Opening Finals.

“It’s nothing really,” he said with a shrug when asked about earning an invite as an underclassman. “I’m just here to compete. I’m happy though. I’m happy and excited.”

How did Harris assess his day at Burrell Field? Did he excel or show out like he had hoped?

“Nah. Not really. I feel like I messed up on a couple of drills,” Harris said. “I don’t feel like I always do good. I feel like I should do more than what I do.”

He did plenty. And that’s part of the reason why the 6-foot-1, 216-pound kid with the sly smile and the dreadlocks bouncing atop his head as he runs a 4.66 40, has garnered so much attention from college coaches recently. Harris committed to the University of Alabama in late April, but said he is keeping his recruitment open. He’s going to at least hear the coach’s pitches going forward.

Harris has expressed interest in a couple of other Southeastern Conference schools, citing the chance to compete against other star players and tough defenses. That’s why USC is a school that he said he has a strong interest in as well.

“I like them. Their school is definitely on the rise. They had like the No. 1 recruiting class or No. 2. Yea, I like them. They’re dope.”

USC already has a 2017 running back committed in Fontana (Calif.) Summit four-star Stephen Carr, but Harris said another top prospect at his position doesn’t deter him from looking at a school.

Harris and Carr actually got a chance to meet each other about a month ago at a 7-v-7 event in Orange County. Harris was impressed with what he saw.

“He’s dope," Harris said. "I like him a lot. He’s nice. He’s competitive too. That’s what you need in this sport, so I like that. He’s going to be good.”

Also “dope” in Harris’ eyes was an unofficial visit to USC last month where he was shown around by defensive backs coach Keith Heyward.

“Coach Heyward showed me where all the Heisman Trophies and everything are and around to all the running backs they’ve had to win a Heisman. RBU and all that stuff. He showed me the recruiting class and how they’re on the rise. I liked it a lot.”

And if Najee Harris was to wear the cardinal and gold uniform, would he add another trophy to the display in Heritage Hall?

“Hell yeah! Of course!”

Check out these Najee Harris highlights from The Opening Oakland Regional:

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