It will be an uphill climb for Marques Harris, no doubt. Wes Meier, Harris' coach at Southern Utah State, thinks Harris has all the tools necessary to complete what would be an improbable journey.
"He's got some of the best athleticism I've ever seen," Meier said. "He's got great strength and great speed."
Harris is seemingly a tremendous fit in the Chargers 3-4 defense. While primarily a linebacker at Southern Utah State, he played some defensive end for Coach Meier as well. Also, the coach used his coverage skills to mirror opposing tight ends.
It is not just Harris' physical prowess that impressed his former coach, but his character drew praise in equal volumes. Despite transferring from much larger Colorado, Harris remained humble even after switching to a smaller, Division I-AA program.
"He just had a great personality," recalled Meier. "He didn't big-league us at all. He's a real genuine kid, and he was really happy to come in and be a part of our program."
As it turned out, Harris was a bigger part of the program than anyone could have anticipated. He had a monster senior season, registering 68 tackles, 25 of which were for a loss, to go along with 11 sacks.
Although Coach Meier credits much of that productivity to Harris' aforementioned physical attributes, he believes that Harris' intelligence played a monumental role in his success as well.
"I see him as almost a whole-package guy," Meier said. "He's very smart. He came in and learned our system very fast. We have a pretty complex system and he picked it up in no time."
In fact, Coach Meier had a difficult time pointing out a single flaw in Harris' game. When pressed, he was able to recall only one.
"He freelances a little bit," conceded Meier, "which is a negative and a positive, because it allows him to use his instincts for the ball."
Chargers fans would seem to be a group willing to accept a linebacker who freelances, but who usually creates havoc when he does so. After all, Junior Seau was pretty popular during his days in blue and gold.
While any comparisons between Harris and Seau would be premature to say the least, it does sound as if this is a guy who could help the Chargers. He has the athleticism and attitude the team is looking for, and may be lacking nothing more than an opportunity.
That opportunity may be difficult to come by, however, as Steve Foley, Shaun Phillips, Ben Leber and Shawne Merriman stand in his way. But while it may be hard for the team to find room for this kid on their roster, it may be even harder for them to cut a player with so much ability and such endless potential.
Michael Lombardo can be reached at Lombardo@SanDiegoSports.net
Wes Meier on Marques Harris: "Whole-package"
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