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Monday, September 7, 2009

Kansas safety Harris gets swagger back

Kansas’ Daymond Patterson (15) and Chris Harris (16) team up to bring down Northern Colorado’s Darin McDonald. KU beat UNC, 49-3, Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas’ Daymond Patterson (15) and Chris Harris (16) team up to bring down Northern Colorado’s Darin McDonald. KU beat UNC, 49-3, Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

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For Superman, it was Kryptonite. For Chris Harris, it was Kansas University’s 2008 football season.

“I just couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t playing good,” KU’s junior defensive back said of the seasonlong slump that plagued him last year. “I just couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t go out there and play like I know I can.”

No need to worry about that any longer.

Saturday night, during Kansas University’s 49-3, season-opening rout of Northern Colorado at Memorial Stadium, Harris showed the kind of swagger and playmaking ability that made him a worthy pick to line up opposite All-America cornerback Aqib Talib during the Jayhawks’ magical run to the Orange Bowl in 2007.

Harris’ numbers Saturday were good: seven tackles, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and one pass breakup. But his demeanor was even better.

“His confidence was back,” senior running back Jake Sharp said. “And he was more aggressive. A confident DB is an aggressive DB. That’s it right there. He’s ready to play. There’s no question about that. His game is at a high level right now, and we just want to keep it there because he’s a tremendous asset to this team.”

In the offseason, the Jayhawks shook up their defense by bringing in co-coordinator Bill Miller to join Clint Bowen in running the unit. Together, Miller and Bowen evaluated every player and analyzed every scheme that might improve the Kansas defense. The result was the birth of a new-look set that employs four linemen, two linebackers and five defensive backs. With safeties Darrell Stuckey and Justin Thornton, as well as cornerbacks Anthony Davis and Daymond Patterson locked in as starters, that left that fifth spot in the secondary up for grabs. Harris wasted no time in taking it and, Saturday, earned high praise from his coach.

“Chris did a lot of good things tonight,” KU coach Mark Mangino said Saturday. “On screens he did a beautiful job containing, and he also came up to support the run and made tackles at the line of scrimmage. Chris is getting better all the time. We had him out of position (last year). He’s not a pure corner. He’s a better safety, and that’s where he’s at now.”

Safety, fifth defensive back, third linebacker: Harris doesn’t care what the position he plays is called. He just wants to keep playing it.

“The reason why I love this position is because they just let me go out there and play and let me be free,” Harris said. “I get to be a lot more aggressive and help with the run and be more physical and can just go out there and help this defense. I love it.”

That showed in the way the Bixby, Okla., native carried himself Saturday night. From the get-go, Harris was all over the field, making plays in the running game and in the passing game. About the only thing he didn’t do against Northern Colorado was pick off a pass.

“A couple of times, I could’ve had an interception,” Harris said. “I feel like I left two out there tonight. Next time, I’m going to get it.”

Next time comes Saturday, when the Jayhawks travel to El Paso, Texas, for a matchup with UTEP. For Harris, Saturday can’t arrive fast enough.

“I’ve just matured a lot,” Harris said. “Coming into college, a lot of times guys haven’t really experienced failure. But when you get to college, you will. I’ve been waiting for this (Northern Colorado) game for a year. It was very important to me and my family because of everything I went through last year. I know I can come out here and play. And I’m not done yet. I still have more work to do.”

Comments

Dirk Medema 10 years, 4 months ago

There's more wood to saw, ...

And a few trees to fell as well.

troutsee 10 years, 4 months ago

Chris Harris was the big man on the KU D on Sat. No doubt about it.

sdoyel 10 years, 4 months ago

Welcome back Chris Harris! Keep it up!

waywardJay 10 years, 4 months ago

Very VERY welcome site for this defense.... i thought our safeties played pretty well saturday

hawk316 10 years, 4 months ago

He's baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack. Great game, Chris, with more to come!

Tony Bandle 10 years, 4 months ago

Please forgive my "wait and see" attitude but this was Northern Colorado, not Texas.

Also, I had the painful chore of sitting through the Mizzou game with my Tiger in-laws and, let everybody be warned, this Gabbert guy is going to be a handful of a QB. He looked like a faster version of Tim Tebow.

Please, please, please don't anyone sell Misery short this year...they look very dangerous and anything can happen in that friggin' concrete toilet bowl called Arrowhead!!

Ryan Shelton 10 years, 4 months ago

My wife kept saying over and over, "Who is that number 16? He's really fast!" Every Saturday you can pick out the kids who are on a level above everybody else. I know his position allows him the freedom to roam, but he's a special player.

KURocksChalk 10 years, 4 months ago

Confidence good, swagger?...bad idea. Quiet confidence and hungry aggression is what I hope to see. I think the new scheme is a good idea. I think the greatest asset that is going to make this team defense even better is the knowledge that this year's offense is even better than last year. Not long from now we will be scoring at will and the defense will then feel absolutely no pressure. They will not have to win games for us. I think that will free them up mentally to improve, learn when and how to take risks and be aggressive and will result with a tremendous confidence in the future. The running game will give us a control of the ballgame that we did not have last year. It will make a world of difference.

If we play sound basic football we will be unbeatable. Good job, Jayhawks! I am really looking forward to having OU and NU play in Lawrence.

KGphoto 10 years, 4 months ago

Geez Oak. Bashing on Arrowhead?

And I watched the Mizzou game. Gabbert and Tebow? C'mon man. That in-law encounter has gone to your brain. Gabbert is to Tebow, as a ho is to a pimp.

Illinois stunk out loud. Northern Colorado would've given Mizzy a better game.

Easy does it in Oakville. It'll be allright.

Now for my $.02 on Chris. He looked big. Like crazy, I've been pumping iron with Hudy big. He used to be scrawny didn't he? Now he's playing safety/linebacker/3rd corner? Chris Harris you are awesome! This is your year.

hometownhawk 10 years, 4 months ago

Oak: I watched that MU game, and my sister could've put up 37 on Illinois

KURocksChalk: You've obviously never played defensive back. Swagger is not just a good idea, it's completely necessary to be an effective d-back.

KG: I believe you mean Dawson, not Hudy.

Joe Baker 10 years, 4 months ago

I was stoked at this win. If we continue to play at this level, we have a better chance to win the North. Any one team is dangerous! All it takes is one bad game and it's difficult to recover. I think the leadership on this team is outstanding!

We have a great chance to beat OU and we'll give Texas a great run.

I can't believe anyone would start sweating any one team. I think the same could be said about about KU this year. We've been pretty much underrated this year. This is good! Keep us under your radar and pay no attention. Then after the game, when the score shows KU 49 and any B12 opponent 3, 7, 10; People will pay more attention to this b-ball program!

Go KU!

Jeffery Barrett 10 years, 4 months ago

KURocksChalk, did you ever see quiet confidence from Talib?! Come on, Talib had the swagger. Now maybe he needs to keep it on the field granted. But there was only one DB that had swagger last year and it showed. I was very disappointed in Harris last year and now I'm stoked to see he's got some SWAGGER!!!

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