MIDDLETON - It was not the start Janesville Parker sophomore defensive tackle Juan Harris was hoping for at his brand new school, but it was a starting point nonetheless.
Harris worked mostly at nose tackle, taking on constant double teams, and did some work at right guard in a 36-0 loss against Middleton Friday night in the 2014 season opener.
After becoming the first freshman to start on the varsity level at Niles (IL) Notre Dame Prep in 27 years, Harris came to Janesville with his family in the spring and joined a program that hasn’t had a winning season since 2011.
“(Playing at Parker) is going to help me learn a big thing about adversity, and that’s what we went through tonight,” Harris told BadgerNation. “We have to overcome that. Guys are working hard and practicing hard, but this (result) isn’t what we expect as a team.”
With temperatures above 90 degrees at kickoff, the environment was a challenge for Harris, who admits warm weather currently takes a toll on his 6-4, 345-pound body. In order to try to keep him fresh, the coaching staff played Harris on only two offensive series and rotated series on defense. He played around 30 snaps and didn’t play in the fourth quarter with the game out of reach.
“Something I have to work on is conditioning,” said Harris. “I have to be more aware of the double teams and do a better job of spreading the guard and the tackle or the guard and the center. I’m going to get that all year because, to be honest, that’s the only way a lot of teams can block me. It’s like not in Texas when they have 300 pounders that can take on one guy.”
Harris’ addition to Janesville Parker has the potential to be a blessing for a program that has lost 15 of its last 19 games. Head coach Eric Skrzypchak said he was unsure whether Harris would be eligible this season after transferring, not getting final clearance until just before the first day of fall practices.
“We made sure we went through the process, making sure he was eligible and all that,” Skrzypchak said. “Now we’re working on getting him accustomed to Parker football and try and take advantage of that. His size and strength, those two things are pretty obvious. They can help both the defensive front and the offensive front. We just have to get better as a team.”
A relative to eight-year NFL defensive tackle Tommie Harris, Juan is starting to see his recruitment get serious He claims three offers – Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin – and is getting mail from Alabama, Baylor and Oklahoma.
“I’ve still got time to develop as a player and get my skills right,” said Harris, who said college coaches want him to get down to 310-320 pounds. “I’m not really focused on recruiting right now because that stuff comes later, but right now I’m really liking Wisconsin. Talking to the coaches, Coach Ben Strickland and Coach Gary Andersen, has been good.”
Although he’s one game into sophomore year and with a new program, Harris feels that he can become a leader to start turning things around for the Vikings.
“It’s about maturity and showing guys what to do,” said Harris. “I know a lot of guys look up to me because I play both sides of the ball. It’s something that I have to do because right now my team is struggling. I have to step up and say something about it, or we’ll continue to get blown out 36-0 every game.”