Defensive Options

One of West Virginia's football recruiting goals is to get "running backs at linebacker" and the Mountaineers have targeted yet another potential member of the Class of 2007 which fits that bill.

The thinking behind West Virginia's strategy is that running backs have many of the attributes they are looking for in linebackers. Speed is an obvious trait, but elusiveness (avoiding blocks) and toughness (taking hits) are just two of the many other qualities that top level runners and backers share. Thus, when West Virginia is combing high schools for linebacker talent, they won't just look at players that are on the defensive side of the ball.

One of the most recent examples of that thinking is Ovid Goulbourne, who racked up more than 2,500 rushing yards during his final two high school seasons. The talented Pennsylvanian, however, was recruited to West Virginia as a linebacker, where he is poised to begin making a contribution as a redshirt freshman this fall.

Buoyed by such success, WVU is now looking at Sharon High School's Kellen Harris in a similar light. Although Harris didn't get many chances to carry the ball from his fullback position as a junior, he could be poised to gain more notice on offense as a senior this fall, when he anticipates a chance to play tailback. Even with great potential on that side of the ball, however, Harris' first love is defense, which certainly suits the Mountaineer coaching staff just fine.

"I like defense first, and I know that's where college are recruiting me," said Harris as he took a break from getting his tuxedo ordered for a prom. "I'm an outside linebacker, and I like it because you get to hit and just play. There's not a whole lot of thinking about it -- just go out and hit people. Defense has always been fun for me."

The well constructed (6-2, 205 lbs.) backer, who has offers from West Virginia, Indiana and Marshall, hasn't set a firm timetable for his decision yet, although he would like to make his choice by the end of the calendar year.

"Of my offers, I've only visited West Virginia, and right now that looks like the best choice," said Harris, who expects more offers before his senior season begins. "I want to visit other schools. I plan on visiting Indiana and Marshall, and I am going to a Nike camp and to Penn State's summer camp too. I'd like to make a decision by December if I can."

The Nittany Lions haven't show much interest in Harris, but that certainly hasn't been the case with West Virginia, which he said he will visit again.

"My visit there was fun. I got to talk to Coach Rod a lot, and it went well. I'm looking forward to my official visit there."

Harris hasn't thought much yet about balancing his individual goals (a productive senior season and drawing attention from collegiate recruiters) with his team goals. In fact, he hasn't given much consideration to his personal goals at all. He's focused on helping Sharon, which has been down for a couple of seasons, bounce back and make the playoffs. He just "wants to play the best I can", and figures that if he can do that, everything else will fall into place.

The rising senior is equally pragmatic about what he is looking for in a college. While many are looking for early playing time or other factors based on the field, Harris is more concerned with finding a place that fits him in a more general sense.

"When I go on visits, I just want to see if I could live there," he said, referring not just to life on the football field. "I need to see if it's a place I can be away from home and be comfortable at."

NOTES

West Virginia might have a slight advantage in the recruiting battle for Harris, but there is still along way to go before he makes his decision. His older brother, Kevin Harris, played for Pittsburgh, and while the Panthers haven't offered yet, they have shown interest in him.

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Harris, a starter at Sharon since his freshman year, was a first team All-Conference selection as a junior.


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