Under the Microscope: Miami's Jacory Harris

Joe at CollegeFootballGeek.comCorrespondent IJuly 27, 2010

Jacory Harris was a Heisman candidate during the 2009 season, and going into 2010 he has become a frontrunner for the hardware. Miami returns many pieces for the 2010 season and there are ACC title hopes in Coral Gables.

But the Canes have not been able to live up to their lofty expectations during the last several seasons. Will the play of Jacory Harris elevate the Canes’ season, and will we see Harris raising the Heisman trophy by the end of the season?

Cast of Characters

Jacory Harris (QB) (Jr)
Graig Cooper (RB) (Sr)
Damien Berry (RB) (Sr)
Mike James (RB) (So)
Lamar Miller (RB) (R-Fr)
Leonard Hankerson (WR) (Sr)
Travis Benjamin (WR) (Jr)
LaRon Byrd (WR) (Jr)
Aldarius Johnson (WR) (Jr)
Thearon Collier (WR) (Jr)

What’s the Scoop?

Jacory Harris will be the center piece of the offense after throwing for 3352 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2009. Those numbers are prompting many in the press to name Harris as one of the key frontrunners for the Heisman this season.  If Jacory wants the hardware he must find a way to become a more consistent passer, as well as find a way to lead his teams to victory when on the “big stage.”

Who’s Gone?

Although there are many key pieces that are coming back for the Canes in 2010, there are some key losses as well.

Running back Jarvis James provided a good change of pace back last season. There is more than enough depth returning to replace Jarvis’ departure though.

The Canes lose their top three tight ends in Dedrick Epps, Jimmy Graham, and Tervaris Johnson who combined for 554 yards and 10 touchdowns. Losing experienced receiving threats in the middle will make it harder to keep opposing safeties in the middle of the field and away from helping corner backs with the wide receivers.

The most important losses for the Canes are in the trenches. Left tackle Jason Fox , right tackle Matt Pipho , and center A.J. Trump all graduated leaving key holes to fill. If the pass protection suffers due to the losses on the line, Harris will be throwing under pressure and his problems with interceptions should remain.

Who’s Back?

There is plenty of talent in the Miami backfield for 2010.

With 2009 leading rusher Graig Cooper suffering a major knee injury in the bowl game, spring camp gave Damien Berry , Mike James , and Lamar Miller a chance to earn a larger role in the offense. All of the backs should be utilized in the fall, and the ability of the offense to throw fresh legs at opponents should help keep defenses honest as well as wear down their front sevens.

There are plenty of receiving options for Jacory Harris to throw the ball to. Miami returns its top five wide receivers from 2009. Leonard Hankerson was the leading receiver with 801 yards and 6 touchdowns. Aldarius Johnson should see an expanded role in 2010, and he will be accompanied by Travis Benjamin , LaRon Byrd , and Thearon Collier .

Heisman Hopes

Not every Heisman frontrunner can live up to the preseason hype. There are several key factors that a Heisman Trophy winner needs to improve his chances.

The first thing is to be the quarterback for a nation championship contender. If Miami can take care of business in the ACC, they will be getting the type of votes from the press to register high in the BCS rankings.

The toughest match-ups in 2010 will be the at Ohio State on September 11th, at Pittsburgh on September 23rd, against Florida State on October 9th, against North Carolina on October 23rd, and against Virginia Tech on November 20th.

These games will provide Harris the type of national exposure he needs to showcase possible “Heisman Moments.” But he will need to eliminate the inconsistent play that plagued him in 2009 against Virginia Tech and North Carolina.

All the key ACC games are at home, but the two early road games will be very tough. If Harris can take care of business in those two non-conference games, Harris could be in the Heisman discussion as ACC play begins.

The fact that Harris has playmakers to distribute the ball to strengthens his Heisman chances. He will not be leaned on to do everything for the offense, and that will allow Harris to be more efficient when the ball is in his hands. The depth of talent at running back will also add to Harris’ chances. The ground game will most likely see a slight bump in the play calling, and that will make the play-action passing game much harder to defend.

If Your Fantasy Draft Was Today...

Will Harris become that elite fantasy quarterback that many people expect? The answer is no. Heisman caliber quarterbacks don’t always translate into fantasy studs. 

Harris should be able to improve his decision making in the passing game, but the losses on the offensive line will impact his ability to have time when throwing the ball. The depth at running back should also create a slightly lower number of passing attempts. But the improved decision making should increase his completion percentage and his yards per attempt. Here’s a look at the initial projection we ran for Jacory Harris:

3,102 passing yards, 25 TDs, 14 INTs, 0 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD

Based off of our initial projection, Harris will average 16.84 points per game which does not translate to elite fantasy quarterback level numbers. But Harris does have fantasy value as a spot starter as there are 6-7 games where he has a quality match up. He's make a decent QB2, especially in BCS-only leagues.  Here’s a list of the top fantasy match-ups:

vs. Florida State (10/9)
at Duke (10/16)
at Virginia (10/30)
vs. Maryland (11/6)
at Georgia Tech (11/13)
vs. South Florida (11/27)

Drafting Jacory Harris somewhere in the mid to late rounds seems like a good bet.  He obviously holds more value in BCS-only leagues and would likely be selected much earlier in those formats.

Joe Arpasi is the co-owner of CollegeFootballGeek.com , your premier resource for college fantasy football information. Check us out.


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