When Corione Harris makes his return to the Kansas football lineup — likely as soon as this Saturday at Baylor — the recently reinstated junior will do so at a new position.
KU head coach Les Miles, who just before the season opener brought Harris back from an eight-month suspension, said Monday that the junior defensive back from New Orleans began practicing this past week and has moved to safety.
“I think safety becomes the easier place to enter,” Miles said of Harris’ return, after an offseason arrest and indefinite suspension kept him away from the program until his court matters were settled in early September.
“And I think we’re better at corner than when Corione left,” Miles said. “It’s likely he’ll start in there at safety and give us another coverage hand at that spot.”
In the Jayhawks’ season-opening loss to Coastal Carolina, senior Kyle Mayberry and freshman Karon Prunty started at cornerback, while Elijah Jones played as a reserve.
Now listed at 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds, Harris spent time as a starting cornerback for KU each of the previous two seasons, after arriving in Lawrence as a touted four-star prospect in the class of 2018. Harris intercepted a pass versus Rutgers in his third career game, but has not recorded another since.
During his sophomore season in 2019, Harris started six games. He missed the final three weeks of the season due to injury. In his nine appearances, Harris made 15 total tackles and broke up two passes.
According to Miles, Harris practiced some but not for the entirety of KU’s bye week.
“He looked like he was a little rusty. But after another week of practice we think we’ll have him ready,” Miles said.
Exactly how much Harris plays at safety at Baylor in the Jayhawks’ Big 12 opener depends on how the practices go in the days leading up to it.
“If this week is as we would expect it to be,” Miles said, “then he will get a bunch of extra reps and we’ll like it, and he’ll step to the field.”
Senior Ricky Thomas started at safety and played the majority of the snaps for KU’s defense versus Coastal. Sophomore Kenny Logan Jr., senior Nate Betts and junior Davon Ferguson also played some as backups at safety.
Senior KU linebacker Denzel Feaster said Monday that Harris’ athleticism has helped the former corner transition to a new spot.
“I feel like he could play a multitude of positions. He’s doing great at safety, and if we needed him to play corner I’m sure he could do great there, as well,” Feaster said. “He’s just a great overall athlete that can adjust to any position, in my opinion.”
Junior KU receiver Takulve “T.K.” Williams, a fellow New Orleans native, called Harris “a great player” and said he was excited to have him back.
“He’s the type of player that he brings energy to the team. It’s just him. When he’s out there the whole team has a different swagger about themselves,” Williams said. “Like when he makes a play he makes you want to make a play — that’s how hyped he is.”
Miles reinstated Harris on the eve of KU’s season opener and the new safety served a one-game suspension during the Jayhawks’ home loss to Coastal Carolina.
According to Missouri court records, Harris’ lawyer reached a plea agreement for the KU player, getting a weapon charge dropped form a Jan. 19 arrest in Howell County, Mo. His updated charge only included possession of a substance. Harris is to serve five years supervised probation as part of the plea deal.