Tuesday, July 24, 2012

the recruit: Tim Harris

Name: Tim Harris
Position: CB/S
Hometown: Richmond
School: Varina
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 185

24/7: 94; four stars; #11 S; VA #6; US #115
ESPN: 80; four stars; #31 CB; VA #17; Atlantic #59
Rivals: 5.8; four stars; #11 CB; VA #11; US #161
Scout: four stars; #24 S; US #299

Other offers: Michigan, Ohio State, Virginia Tech, Tennessee, California, Syracuse, Rutgers, Mississippi

Tim Harris is the embodiment of the new age of UVA recruiting under Mike London, and of the reason Hokie fans don't like what they see in the crystal ball.  It was pretty rare, under Al Groh, to have an instate recruit be one of those guys where everyone else shrugs and says "if he hasn't already announced he's going to UVA, he will eventually."  We used to take it as a fact of life that some guys were Hokies and we just wouldn't be able to change that, and we'd just work for the rest.  Now there are guys like Tim Harris where no amount of Hokie recruiting is likely to flip him away from UVA.

A couple VT fans, by the way, expressed their frustration at this development by tweeting nasty things at Harris.  That didn't used to happen, either, and don't be a smartass it's not just because Twitter is a new thing.....it's not that new a thing, and Facebook-stalking is older yet.  What's new is the idea of a high-profile recruit being solid with UVA basically before the recruiting cycle even begins.

When Harris dropped the other shoe and made his commitment official, he became the first truly highly-touted recruit of the class, and the first instate one as well.  Helping Harris's decision along was the fact that he hails from a mini-pipeline school (Varina) where UVA snagged two commitments last year (Maurice Canady and Tyrell Chavis) and also has wide receiver Bobby Smith.  Harris closed his recruitment relatively early, so he didn't get the full list of offers that he might've if he'd sent more I'm-wide-open vibes, but interest from Michigan and Ohio State was legit, and highlights the type of interest he might've gotten had he not otherwise been such a UVA lean.

On the field, Harris is an athletic and versatile player.  He doesn't bring freak athleticism to the table, and he's lanky and kinda skinny for now - another 15 pounds would easily fit on his frame.  But he comes in with the ability to play both safety and corner, and could be like Rodney McLeod, moving back and forth as necessary.  (Though it seemed clear even when McLeod was at corner, that he'd be a more natural safety.)  "Smooth" is a word used by both Rivals and ESPN to describe his skills, as is "well-rounded."  Rivals says he "does everything well and nothing great," and gives the impression of a cornerback that might go entire games without making a blip on the radar screen.....and forcing his assigned receiver to do the same.

ESPN, on the other hand, also evaluates him as a cornerback, but almost the whole damn thing reads like exactly what you want out of a safety.  Harris's "traits": zone coverage, run support, instinct.  They like his "ability to make plays sideline-to-sideline on run support and cover a lot of ground in coverage," and they have a lot of praise for his ability to play in a zone - timing his breaks, very good tackling, effective in deep coverage.  This is all the kind of stuff you want your free safeties to do.  24/7 and Scout also peg him as a safety.

So I think the coaches will make a decision for themselves when Harris gets to school.  The scouting services are pretty divergent on whether he's one of the top players in the country or not - Rivals and 24/7 have him in or just outside the top 150, but ESPN has him outside their top 300 and Scout is close - 299th.  They all agree, though, that he's a four-star type and highly likely to succeed in college.

Which brings us to the question - how quickly?  As a cornerback, Harris would come in and most likely see the top three spots occupied for two years.  At least, that's our ideal scenario.  Tre Nicholson is a star in the making, and Brandon Phelps and Drequan Hoskey are locked in a tight battle for the other starting spot, and truth be told both will get heavy playing time this year.  All are sophomores.  Harris is capable of leapfrogging this year's entire freshman cornerback class, which right now constitutes five players, but it would still probably be not until his junior or redshirt sophomore year that he sees major playing time.

At safety, the path is a little faster, as prospective starter Rijo Walker is a junior this year.  I think Harris, if he goes this route, projects as a free safety, which is where Walker plays.  There's a lot less star power on the depth chart at safety, too.  Harris could get playing time as a true freshman here, if he shows well in fall camp, and could even be a starter by his second year in the program.**

I sort of doubt Harris has "college superstar" in his future.  Maybe I'm being biased by the "everything well, nothing great" line, but neither is Harris a superstar recruit like, say, Kendall Fuller.  (Ugh.)  But my impression is he's the kind of talent that's the foundation of a really good program.  The Alabamas and Michigans and USCs are as good as they are because they have Tim Harrises on a conveyor belt.  One graduates, another shows up, and they move on as before.  It's very likely he's a multi-year starter at whichever position he ends up at (and I'm more and more inclined to believe it'll be safety) and should have a shot at some all-ACC honors.  He doesn't seem the type to top the charts when interceptions are tallied, but he could start for three years and you'd never hear his name, which in itself is a huge plus for a defensive back.

**Lets hope so, because Anthony Harris is the presumptive starter at strong safety and a defensive backfield of Harris and Harris is a neat idea.

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