|Berea (KY) Madison Southern running back Damien Harris|
Harris is a 5'11", 205 lb. prospect who claims a 4.4 forty. As a freshman on varsity in 2011, he had 62 carries for 742 yards and 11 touchdowns. His sophomore year netted 144 carries for 1,778 yards and 35 touchdowns.
ESPN: 4-star, 84 grade, #3 running back, #20 overall
247 Sports: 4-star, 94 grade, #10 running back, #91 overall
Harris camped at Michigan prior to his 2012 sophomore season, netting an offer from the Wolverines at the time. As his childhood favorite, Michigan was at the top of his list the entire time. Ohio State was considered to be the main contender, and he even said they were tied at the top not too long ago, but that obviously didn't last long.
There are a lot of things to like about Harris, as evidenced by his recruiting rankings. He does have very good flat-out speed, which means he's very difficult to catch once he hits the open field. He also shows good acceleration through the hole, so it doesn't take him long to hit top speed. He's pretty thickly built with a frame that reminds me a little bit of Boise State alum and current Tampa Bay Buccaneer Doug Martin, although their running styles are a little different. Harris isn't afraid to lower his shoulder, especially against second- and third-level guys. When he's near the sideline, he uses good body lean to take contact and stay inbounds. He also shows the ability to stay low through traffic and grind for yards, although he doesn't have to do that very often against Madison Southern's competition. Additionally, he throws some great blocks in the running game; he won't have to block much for other runners in college, but that shows a willingness to block for his teammates, which bodes well for pass protection.
As mentioned above, the competition level for Madison Southern is very questionable. Harris is clearly faster than anyone he plays against, and the opponents aren't very big, either. Those inflated statistics would drop off somewhat against good competition, but that's not his fault. The team runs some dive option stuff that won't be a part of his college playbook, but they also run some I-formation plays that should prepare him a little bit for what he'll run at Michigan. Aside from those institution "shortcomings," I see a couple flaws in Harris's game. I think he turns his shoulders a little too much, especially before he hits the second level, and that takes away from some of his power. He also lacks some suddenness, so he'll be mostly a downhill power runner with speed; he's probably not a guy who will be able to dance to daylight at the next level.
Overall, I think Harris has excellent potential. With the way Michigan is recruiting the offensive line, I think he'll be able to show off his talents by hitting the hole hard, lowering his shoulder, and then outrunning some people. He might struggle to create for himself, but hopefully he won't have to worry about that very often. He could be an all-conference type of player, if not All-American.
This is Michigan's fourth commitment for the 2015 class and the first running back. Unless Michigan pulls off a surprise in the 2014 class, the coaches are expected to take at least two runners in 2015. The program has not recruited Kentucky heavily over the years, but they have secured commitments from Kentuckians like Jeremy Clark, Brandent Englemon, and Brandon Logan over the years.
TTB Rating: I will not assign ratings for the 2015 class until the 2014 class wraps up.
Here are Harris's Hudl highlights.