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By LARRY VAUGHT
If running backs coach Chad Scott is right, senior running back Raymond Sanders could flourish in UK’s new offense.
Question: How has senior Raymond Sanders been as a leader for a newcomer like JoJo Kemp?
Scott: “The biggest thing Raymond has done for him is teaching him how to perform, how to study. We do a walk-through before every practice, so Raymond has done a great job of teaching him how to do just that and about how fast to do it, but also doing it right. When we go live, he knows what is going on. That’s the biggest difference here. They didn’t do walk-throughs in high school, so everything he did was full speed. Ray has been a huge factor for him.”
Question: How much has Sanders’ leadership helped you?
Scott: “It has helped tremendously. All the older guys see that Ray being the player he is taking time to help the younger guys, so all the guys on offense want to do that. Also from a coaching standpoint, it shows you the confidence he has in his ability. He’s a competitor but he wants to help those guys become as talented as he is.”
Question: How well does Neal Brown’s offense fit Sanders’ skills?
Scott: “Perfectly. You will see Ray doing a lot of things with this offense. You will see him in the backfield. We will line him up out wide. You will see him do a lot because it fits him perfectly. I think you will see a whole different Ray Sanders this year.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown thinks the aggressive personality of running backs coach Chad Scott is showing with the way UK’s backs are performing in practice.
“I think all those running backs have really competed hard. I think Ray (Sanders) keeps getting better. I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised at Raymond Sanders this year. I expect big things from him,” Sanders said. “Jon George, kind of a steady Eddie. Then Jojo (Kemp) and Dyshawn (Mobley), we need those guys. They’re different running styles, but we need those guys to come. And they are. They’re going to play.
“We’re going to have to be able to run the ball guys. We’re not in a position – we’re talking about freshman receivers. All that sounds good in this setting, but at the end of the day they’re still 17, 18 years old, and they’re still going to have to go out there and play. For us to put all of our cards in their deck or all our eggs in their basket, that wouldn’t be real wise. So we’re going to have to run the ball.”
That suits Scott, a former UK running back who coached with Brown at Troy and Texas Tech, as he pushes his backs to get ready for the season-opening game Aug. 31. Scott shared these insights.
Question: How are the running backs doing?
Scott: “They are looking real good. I have been impressed with the guys in terms of pass protection standpoint. They are coming along. (Senior) Ray Sanders is doing really well. He has had a great camp. The goal is just to keep him that way. Jonathan George has really come on and made some plays. He started out sluggishly, but he has picked it back up. Dyshawn Mobley has gotten back. He started out slowly, but he has made some big plays the last few days. And (freshman) JoJo Kemp has made some plays. I am really pleased with those guys, or at least I am right now. We have a long ways to go but we are making progress.”
Question: Is Kemp as good as you thought when you recruited him or maybe even better?
Scott: “He is as good as we thought and we thought he was good. He just has to continue to adjust to the wear and tear on his body from college football. His body has never felt like it feels right now. He just has to keep pressing, but he is as good as we thought.”
Question: Do you like Kemp’s enthusiasm and outgoing personality off the field?
Scott: “I like his toughness. Like his personality, love his toughness.”
Question: So is he a physical player like he claims he is?
Scott: “That is a fair description. He is a kid that will dictate tempo. He is not a follower. He doesn’t need nobody to push him. He is driven. That is one thing that has surprised me about him. He sets tempo. He wants it. He will jump in without somebody telling him. I really like that side of it.”
Question: How do you get backs to play with the tenacity you want?
Scott: “I always tell those guys if they lack energy, find it within me. I am always happy. The biggest adjustment from high school to college is pass protection. It is a lot of technique, but a lot is attitude and that’s one thing we stress. Everything we talk about always goes back to pass protection. If you can get those guys to have confidence to pick up the blitz, running the ball is almost second nature to them. ”
Question: Do you agree with coach Mark Stoops about Kemp having a pit bull mentality?
Scott: “He does have that mentality and we love him. Sometimes I have to pull him back. He will want to go up against somebody 90 pounds heavier than him. You can’t tell him he can’t do. He has that kind of mentality.”
Question: How would you describe Mobley in comparison to Kemp being a pit bull?
Scott: “One and the same honestly. Just a little taller and a bigger pit bull. The thing you will see with him is knowing who you are. JoJo is going to be a guy that can make people miss. He can break tackles, but at least for right now not being as big as other guys he’s going to have to specialize in making guys miss. Mobley is going to be a power runner. He’s going to break tackles. He’s going to make this offense exciting because he’s going to stay on his feet and run through people and get yards after contact and make big plays by breaking tackles.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown doesn’t mince words when it comes to receiver Javess Blue.
“We thought he was, if not the best, one of the top two or three junior college receivers in the country last year. Signed him at Texas Tech, had some grade issues, went to Butler Community College and led them to a National Championship game,” said Brown. “Last year was very productive. And he’s a smart kid.”
Blue had to finish academic work at Butler Community College until just before preseason practice started and Brown has been “taking it slow” with him in practice. But he ranked as the nation’s No. 14 junior college player by ESPN.com last season and led the Grizzlies in receptions with 65 for 1,064 yards and 12 touchdowns. He averaged 28.8 yards per kickoff return and 11.2 yards on punt returns. He had 88 catches for 1,774 yards and 20 scores his final two seasons at Lake Wales (Fla.) High School.
Blue, who had been timed in 4.41 seconds in the 40-yard dash, offered these insights on his play and future.
Question: How relieved are you just to be here and ready to go?
Blue: “It took me a while to get here, but I am ready now. It is going full speed when it comes down to practice. I have been working out over the summer, taking classes while I was at Butler. I am pretty much ready to go. The coaches knew I was going to come in a little later. They kept in touch with me so that everything will go smooth.”
Question: Will it hurt you not being here all summer?
Blue: “It shouldn’t be a problem. I am used to the fast offense that we had at Butler Community College. It is kind of the same thing. I am ready and looking forward to it.”
Question: What did it mean to you that Neal Brown and (running backs coach) Chad Scott didn’t forget you after they recruited you for Texas Tech and you did not qualify academically?
Blue: “It means we have a strong relationship together. We are basically like a family. They are like step-dads to me. I really look up to them. I am going to follow in their footsteps.”
Question: Do you feel pressure from those “step-dads” to produce immediately?
Blue: “It is not too much pressure. I am really comfortable with doing what I do best. I can get a feel for it.”
Question: How would you describe what you do best?
Blue: “Make plays, catching the ball, unbelievable catches, making touchdowns, showing off my speed when needed.”
Question: Did you go to Butler because they played a fast-paced offense?
Blue: “It was a great program really. I was looking forward to being with other D-1 athletes. You have to play and practice against the best. We never really huddled there, so it is pretty much like here.”
Question: How much did the Butler coaches help you this summer to get you ready for UK?
Blue: “They put on a lot of work. They had me working out with the team that came in this summer. I was up to speed with them. I was teaching the younger guys the fundamentals of what they are looking for them to do. That’s why I can step in and be ready. I want to make plays and be that guy that comes out here to make plays and win games. They expect me to be that playmaker, so I expect myself to live up to it.”
Question: What do you even know about the other receivers here?
Blue: “Just come in and work for my spot is what I plan on doing. You have to earn time.”
Question: Will you get a chance to return punts and kickoffs?
Blue: “For sure. I want to do that. I am real relaxed doing that. Most likely I am going to go catch the ball and get good field position for my team.”
Question: When someone describes you as fearless, is that accurate?
Blue: “I don’t care how big you are, I will take on the challenge.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Speedy receiver Garrett Johnson of Florida considers himself a “playmaker” who is convinced he can continue to make plays at Kentucky.
“I like to get the ball on a 5-yard hitch (pass) and turn it into an even bigger gain. I am an electric player,” said Johnson, who verbally committed last week to sign with UK in February. “I like to make people miss, but I can take a hit, too.
“I used to play running back, so I know how to find holes in defenses. I can get yards on my own. I think all that comes with playing. I have always been able to catch the ball pretty good, but I am far from perfect. I still work to get better and better. But I can make plays.”
The 5-10, 170-pound Johnson, a three-star player, had other scholarship offers from Arizona, Boston College, Connecticut, Georgia Tech, Iowa State, Marshall, Northwestern, South Florida and Vanderbilt. Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Louisville, Miami (Fla.), North Carolina, North Carolina State and UCF also were recruiting him.
As a sophomore, he caught 58 passes for 1,014 yards (17.5 yards per catch) and 11 scores. He played both receiver and cornerback as a junior when he caught 49 passes for 685 yards and seven scores. He also ran for about 200 yards and two scores on 21 carries.
Johnson turned head when he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds at the Florida State camp in June, but did not have a scholarship offer from the Seminoles or Florida when he committed to Kentucky.
“It feels a lot better to me knowing I am committed to Kentucky,” Johnson said. “When I came up there and got to see the practice field, indoor facility and stadium, and meet the whole coaching staff, I was sold.”
He was particularly impressed, and has been, with UK running backs coach Chad Scott.
“Seeing him in person again and kind of checking out the way they do things was good. Also getting to talk to the head coach (Mark Stoops) was really good,” Johnson said. “I know Coach (Stoops) is about defense, but he noticed me and after camp he said he thought I could play both inside and outside receiver. He had a lot of recruits at camp, but he told me I was definitely one that impressed him.”
Because of his relationship with Scott, he had planned to visit UK. Plus, freshman receiver Jeff Badet is a long-time friend and has spent the last two months on campus getting ready for his freshman season.
“I think I will fit in the offense very well. My high school team runs the spread, an open attack,” Johnson said. “I knew about Kentucky before they started recruiting me, but not much in depth about the team. That’s why I wanted to check out everything.
“I talked to a lot of schools, but when I talked to Kentucky they just stood out the most mainly because of the offense and my bond with coach Scott. That is why Kentucky won me over.”
He says “just talking” to Scott was refreshing during the recruiting process.
“We always had good things to talk about whether it was football or life or what I was doing,” Johnson said. “Just things like that he cared about. I could connect and bond with him. It seems like I have been talking to him a lot longer than I have. He is a cool guy. He was telling me what it is like to play in that offense and what it is like to play at Kentucky since he played there. That gave me more insight into what goes on at Kentucky.”
He felt much the same way about many of UK’s other 2014 verbal commitments he met during the July camp at UK.
“I could kind of see what those other players brought to the table. I got to meet quarterback Drew Barker and throw with him. I think he is a great player. He can really sling it. We have the pieces for a good offense in our class that really intrigued me,” Johnson, who may run track in the spring to help his speed, said.
* * *
Johnson will join us on WLAP (WLAP.com) Sunday at 9:30 a.m. to talk about his recruitment.
Kentucky picked up another verbal commit today when West Orange (Fla.) receiver Garrett Johnson picked the Wildcats over Arizona, Boston College and South Florida. He had recently narrowed his list of 11 schools to those four.
The 5-9, 162-pound Johnson recently told Chris Hayes, the Orlando Sentinel’s recruiting coverage coordinator, what he liked best about UK.
“Just me talking to Coach [Chad] Scott [running backs coach] a lot really helped me out and the bond has grown between me and him. Also, me knowing a few of their players like Jeff [Badet], and Jojo [Kemp] and Blake [McClain], that’s helping let me know a lot about what’s going on at Kentucky right now … they always give me honest feedback.”
USF: “The new coaching staff, I love them. I’ve always been a big fan of USF even with the previous coaching staff, and I’ve kept a good bond and everything so the feel for USF for me hasn’t changed.”
Johnson is a slot-type receiver who Hayes says “has a strong upper body and can fill any of the wide-receiver roles.” He runs a 4.47 40-yard dash. He is ranked among the top 100 players in Florida and caught 104 passes for 1,699 yards and 17 touchdowns during his sophomore and junior years.
By LARRY VAUGHT
He’s really not sure exactly where the nickname “Boom” came from other than one of his high school coaches started calling him that. However, recent Kentucky commit Stanley Williams has embraced the nickname and all it stands for.
“Every time I score, everybody just goes, ‘Boom’ when I score. The whole stadium does it,” said the Georgia standout who is ranked as the nation’s No. 1 all-purpose running back. “I have fun with it. I love the nickname. Everybody calls me that now and I am fine with Boom or Stanley. I’m looking forward to bringing that name to UK, and when I score touchdowns in the stadium, having the whole stadium going ‘Boom’ when I score.”
He admits it would be “cool” to have his name listed on the roster as Boom.
“I think fans would really like that,” Williams said.
Williams wasn’t expecting to commit to UK when he did last week. However, he said his visit was “so great” he felt there was no need to wait any longer.
“I can’t wait to get back up here. I can’t wait until they have home games this year I can watch,” Williams said. “The whole atmosphere when I came up for my visit was great. Just the love everybody showed me. It was unbelievable. I don’t think I have ever been anywhere where the connection with all the coaches is like that. I just felt like it was a great home for me. Everything was great. Academics, athletics, football. They expect a lot out of players on the field and academically. It’s just a great school where I can get a great education.
“Me and my family felt that would be my home. My mom felt comfortable. My dad did. My sister did. That is was also helped trigger my commitment. We all felt like it was the right place for me.
“The coaches talk about the most loyal fans and the family atmosphere on campus. All those things they said were true. You don’t get many people to talk straight up with you about things, but the Kentucky staff was that way. Me and my mom were both really impressed. She loves Kentucky and can’t wait to get me rolling up there and I can’t wait to make Kentucky a big school in the SEC again.”
Williams, who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.28 seconds as a 175-pound freshman when he verbally committed to Georgia, had not heard from Kentucky before the new staff arrived. He knew about head coach Mark Stoops from his reputation at Florida State and UK running backs coach Chad Scott had recruited him for Texas Tech.
“I hadn’t even received any mail from Kentucky before. Hearing from Kentucky was something totally new to me and my family. Once they started recruiting me, they were really impressed with my film. I was definitely interested in trying to help Kentucky be one of the top schools in the SEC,” Williams said.
“I watched film of the offense and how they use their running backs. They spread guys out over the whole field so that defenses can’t have many guys in the box. That will let me operate in the middle behind my offensive linemen. The offense allows me to get in space and make plays. The coaches are looking for me to make plays and will put the ball in my hands to make plays. I’ll get to make plays one on one against linebackers and hopefully send out a lot of booms in the Kentucky stadium. Just looking at what (offensive coordinator Neal Brown and staff) ran at Texas Tech, they’ll let me set up my blocks and then it will be up to me to do some work and score.
“We will have a lot of mismatches. (Quarterback) Drew Barker will have so many weapons. I’ll do most of my work making plays and catching balls. I started trying to expand my game in spring practice so defenses could not get a feel for me at one position. Expect me to be all over the field making plays at Kentucky.”
He said he “clicked” with UK secondary coach Bradley Dale Peveto, his main recruiter. That was another reason he picked UK over Mississippi State, West Virginia, Arizona and Wisconsin, his other finalists after he de-committed from Georgia.
“I just wanted to be part of something great with coach Stoops,” Williams said. “It’s just an honor to be recruited by Kentucky. This is going to be the best recruiting class Kentucky has ever had. We have got a lot of great people. There are a lot of things going on, and more guys are going to come, too. Kentucky recruiting is just going crazy. To be honest, I’ve never seen a fan base like Kentucky. The fans are incredible and stick with the team. I can’t wait to play in front of those crazy fans.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
If there is one thing that should be obvious to elite offensive players about Kentucky football, it’s that the Wildcats will have plenty of chances for playmakers to shine.
“Over the last three years Texas Tech, we were number one team in plays per game,” said new UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown. “We will play faster (than UK did last year). We are a pass-oriented team, but we will run.”
One of those running starting in 2014 could be Georgia’s Stanley “Boom” Williams. He verbally committed to the Wildcats — he’s UK’s 16 commitment in the 2014 recruiting class — during a visit to Lexington Thursday. Rivals.com ranks him not only as a four-star player, but also as the nation’s all-purpose back and 96th overall player in the country.
That makes him Kentucky’s highest ranked recruit in seven years and the first top 100 player to pick UK since Micah Johnson in 2006. His decision also boosted UK to No. 3 in Rival.com’s team rankings for the 2014 class.
Williams, nicknamed “Boom,” rushed for 1,958 yards and 24 touchdowns last year at George Walton Academy. His offers included Clemson, Georgia, Auburn, Georgia Tech, LSU, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Williams had committed to Georgia after his freshman season because he said he grew up a Georgia fan and couldn’t wait to commit when he got an offer. However, he recently de-committed from Georgia.
“I dreamed of playing for Georgia and after I ran a 4.28 (second 40-yard dash) my freshman year, me and my family thought committing was the right thing to do. But now I am opening everything back up. We all thought that would be best and not just have my eyes set on one decision and not see what my other options are,” Williams said in a recent interview with The Advocate-Messenger.
Williams, who said he recently ran a 4.31 40, said he felt he would be a “good fit” in Brown’s offense before his visit.
“I think I am more of a spread running back. I can play in any offense. I don’t prefer any particular offense as long as I am helping my team win,” Williams said. “But I do see myself as a good fit in his offense as far as helping the team and making plays, catching the ball, running the ball and blocking. Those are all things I mainly do already.”
He spent spring practice working as a slot receiver working on routes and catching the ball.
Brown wants an all-around back in his fast-paced offense.
During a talk in Nicholasville Thursday night as part of a fundraiser for the Kentucky Pro Football Hall of Fame, Brown praised UK senior back Raymond Sanders for his expected role in next season’s offense. “Raymond was our best back in the spring. He is an all-purpose guy. He can make people miss, catch balls. He can do a lot of things in our offense,” Brown said.
When Brown was at Texas Tech, Williams was being recruited by running backs coach Chad Scott, who came to UK with Brown.
“Recruiting is absolutely the No. 1 thing we have to do,” Brown said Thursday night. “I feel like we have really good coaches but I do not care what sport you are playing, you are only as good as your players. If you don’t recruit at a superior level, you won’t win.”
Kentucky is doing that under first-year coach Mark Stoops. Kentucky now has commitments from five players ranked among the nation’s top 200 players by Rivals.com in its 2014 recruiting class after getting two in the top 225 last year.
Kentucky now has 10 players in its 2014 recruiting class — compared to one at this time a year ago — with the commitment from Blinn College defensive back Shyquawn Pullium Sunday. The junior college standout was recruited by UK running backs coach Chad Scott.
The 6-1, 190-pound Pullium was a 2010 commitment to Penn State as a high school senior at Cathedral Prep School in Erie, Penn., when he was rated a three-star player and No. 31 prospect in the state by Rivals.com.
He played one year at Kiski School in Saltsburg, Pa., and signed with Penn State again before ending up at Blinn, a junior college. He had 12 tackles and two pass breakups last season.
Patrick Loney of http://kentuckybluesportsnews.com recently asked Pullium about his strengths and areas of improvements.
“Strengths are coverage and aggressive weakness is a strength. I’m aggressive and cover well. Areas of improvement is I guess over aggressive,” Pullium told Loney.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Veteran coach Dom Dunn, a Louisville native, is thrilled to be back on the field coaching defensive tackles at Western Kentucky after spending the three previous seasons as the director of high school relations at Texas Tech for a staff that included current Kentucky coaches Neal Brown, Chad Scott and Tommy Mainord. He has 37 years of coaching experience at the collegiate level, including 10 years at Auburn. Dunn was at the Kentucky High School Coaches Association Clinic at Centre College Saturday and shared his thoughts on Western, UK football, Brown, Scott and even Jacob Tamme.
Question: What has it been like working for Bobby Petrino and how anxious were you to get back on the field after three seasons as director of high school relations at Texas Tech?
Dunn: “I am very fortunate, very thankful. I coached for all those years and things just didn’t work out and I had to go into the administration part of it, which I learned a lot from the other side. When Bobby gave me this opportunity, it was just like a breath of fresh air. I really believe and know for a fact I am working for the best head coach in college football. He doesn’t miss a thing. He has made me a better coach again. Bringing out the best in meet since I have been with him since February.”
Question: What is your sense about what the win over Kentucky last year meant to the Western football program?
Dunn: “I am sure it was a great day for Western Kentucky and their fans and their players. But I didn’t have anything to do with it. None of us (coaches) were there. We have not talked about it. We won’t talk about it. You can’t worry about what happened yesterday. If I was a Western Kentucky fan, that would be a great day.”
Question: Since you will know half the Kentucky staff almost, what will that opening game be like for you trying to slow down the Neal Brown offense?
Dunn: “It is going to be a challenge. He does a great job. Their staff does a great job. Plus, we are starting all over basically on the defensive line. We lost some good players. Like every game, got to take one game at a time. We don’t look at Kentucky or Tennessee or anybody. We are just Team X that we have next.”
Question: What impresses you the most about Neal on and off the field?
Dunn: “Great guy. Great family guy. I got to know Neal a little bit at Troy and knew about him because I was at Auburn so long. I met Neal a few times and heard great things about him and then was fortunate enough to work for him for three years at Texas Tech. Love his family. His kids. His dad is a great man. I talk to his dad more than Neal. Trying to help him out where Neal’s sister is trying to get a job at another school. Great kid, great young coach. Energetic. Works hard in recruiting. Works the kids hard. I see Neal in five years being one of those big-time head coaches.”
Question: Even though he wouldn’t yet be 40 years old?
Dunn: “Don’t tell me that. Like I said, I got shoes older than Neal.”
Question: What kind of young coach is Chad Scott and what makes him such a good recruiter?
Dunn: “Chad is Chad. He is honest and he knows the game. He doesn’t put up a lot of BS. He gets to know the kids and families. His personality. Just a great guy. I love them all. They are all good people. He’s a good coach on the field, too. He is hard nosed, get after it, technician, studies the game. All those guys, including coach Mainord, have nothing but a great future ahead of them. But ask coach Mainord about his cooking. He can’t cook a brisket. He’s a good coach, and a great young coach. I hope these guys realize what a great opportunity they have. It can end in a hurry. You can be at the top of the world and then be at the bottom, but I see nothing but bright futures for these three guys.”
Question: Are they always enthusiastic like they showed during their first spring practice at UK?
Dunn: “Yes. That is what it is. You can’t ask your kids to go hard and work if you don’t have energy, enthusiasm and tempo. They all three have that and will continue to have that. That is what it takes.”
Question: Since you have coached in the SEC, how will Brown’s offense work in the SEC?
Dunn: “I think so. But what succeeds are players. My grandpa always told me no donkey won the Kentucky Derby. You have got to have athletes. If you get athletes and good football players, they can run any offense or defense. It is unique offense and will put pressure on the defense. When they get their type of people there, I see that offense being very successful.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
He came into his sophomore season with seven Division I scholarship offers and now Madison Southern running back Damien Harris says the number is around 15 or more.
That’s how impressive the 5-11, 205-pound Harris, who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds, has been. He ran for 742 yards and 11 touchdowns on just 76 carries in 2011 as a freshman and came back last season to gain 1,911 yards on 160 carries and score 37 times. He also caught five passes for 176 yards and three more scores.
He got more physical last season when he found more time to get in the weight room — he had always played three sports before — and hopes to be even more aggressive this season after learning last year that teams often celebrated just for tackling him.
“A lot of times it can be like that. It gets frustrating. Every time you get tackled, they celebrate like they won a state championship, but it only makes me better,” said Harris. “It makes me not want to get tackled that much more so I can keep them from having that pleasure of tackling me. It is what it is. I have kind of accepted it through the years, so it is not that big a deal any more.”
He proved his speed is a “big deal” at the Class AA regional track meet at Boyle County Saturday. He won the 100-meter dash in and also helped Madison Southern win the 4×100 relay even though he’s still not at full speed. “It has been kind of hard for me conditioning wise. This was my first meet in almost two months where I had surgery on my elbow. That’s why I didn’t run the 200 (meter dash). I had a slight strain in my quad, too,” he said.
He’s not sure what caused his elbow injury.
“I just got to the point that I couldn’t straight in out and was in pain. I didn’t really have a significant injury to cause that,” Harris said. “I went to the doctor and they told me that I had extra bone growing off my elbow and it was causing extra scar tissue and arthritis. Whenever they did surgery, they shaved it down so I could get full extension in it. I will be 100 percent for football now.”
Harris prides himself on being prepared. He says he enjoys watching film and understands the value of blocking assignments and schemes. He also understands he needs a plan for what he wants to do this summer.
“I am going to try to make it up to Notre Dame, Ohio State, Michigan, Alabama and maybe even Florida for the Friday Night Lights where you get to play in the Swamp under the lights at night,” Harris said. “I will make a few of those type trips. I am also actually going with one of my linemen to support him at one of his combines up in Chicago. I will be pretty busy seeing what places are about.”
He plans to make a trip to Kentucky “every now and then” this summer. However, he says he is already “pretty close” to UK head coach Mark Stoops, offensive coordinator Neal Brown and running backs coach Chad Scott.
“They are all great guys. I will definitely stay in touch with them and make some of their practices and stuff. I was at the spring game. I will definitely stay in touch with those guys,” Harris said.
He tries not to let his abundance of scholarship offers impact his daily routine.
“I try not to think about it. I want to stay grounded, stay humble. I know that I am not there yet. There are still a lot of things I have to work on,” he said. “It is hard at times to be humble. I am not going to deny it is hard. But I was raised by a good mother and she definitely keeps me grounded.
“My coaches tell me to just try to be thankful for everything I have because it is a blessing to do everything I do. I try to stay humble and thank God for all he’s blessed me with. Focus more on my grades and then what I need to do on the field versus how many offers I have.”
He won’t set individual goals for this season.
“Every year my No. 1 goal is get better and win a state championship. I don’t want to get individual accolades because there are 11 men on the field, not just one,” Harris said. “I definitely try to make team goals instead of me goals. In the end, a state championship with my team is much better than state player of the year. I don’t really have that many goals for myself other than definitely win a state championship. That’s the one goal I want.”
That’s part of why he runs track. He likes to stay in shape, but says he also “loves winning” and pushing himself to win.
“If there is something to do because I think I can win, I do it because I love to be a winner,” he said.
He’s not sure if he can win the 100-meter dash at the Class AA state meet in Louisville Friday.
“It is a tough question. I have been off for a while. but I don’t ever consider myself an underdog. I always consider myself to be not the best but to have the best chance,” Harris said. “You have to go in with that mindset that you are going to win under any circumstance. Not in an arrogant or cocky way. I feel like I still have a good chance to come in first. If I do, it will be great. If I don’t, it will just give motivation to work even harder for next year.”
He has paid attention to how hard the Kentucky coach staff has been working in recruiting and noted how Conner quarterback Drew Barker, a four-star recruit, picked UK over South Carolina last week.
“I am not going to want to go somewhere where I am the only recruit … where other people commit takes into play where I want to go,” Harris said. “If a good quarterback commits to a school, I will look into that. A good quarterback and a good running back duo, that’s always a plus.
“As far as other players at my position, I don’t like to go somewhere another top running back will go. I don’t want to really share with somebody else. I would like to be that guy that gets the carries, that gets the tough yards and stuff like that. I take it into consideration”
He knows Brown’s high tempo offense at Kentucky could create a lot of opportunities for playmakers to touch the ball, something he says appeals to him..
“More carries gives me a better opportunity to show people what I can do. But 30 or 40 carries a game is hard work. Not saying I wouldn’t be up to the work, but it makes things harder versus 15 to 20 carries like coach Brown seems to like for a back,” Harris said. “But that is kind of how our offense is. We like to run 80 or 90 plays a game and if I were to go there, it would be an easy fit for me because I would be used to running so many plays already and I like that offense.”