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The debate over University of Miami’s Jacory Harris isn’t whether he’s a good quarterback.
No argument there. Harris has proven to be a good passer in his one-plus year of being a full-time starter. He threw for over 3,000 yards with 24 touchdowns and 17 interceptions last season, delivering many clutch performances from football’s most important and most difficult position.
Canes fans have faced the Jacory dilemma time and time again. Certain times he does things on the field that make us want to think he’s more than just a good quarterback, that he’s a legitimate star. For every beautiful touchdown, an ugly interception seems to be lurking in the wings, just waiting to bring the kid down.
The enigma of Harris is this back-and-forth venture between spectacular and horrid. There is no consistency whatsoever. He is bipolar from a football standpoint. I can’t remember a more hot-and-cold player in any sport.
A frustration level has been building over the course of Miami’s season, currently four games young, nibbling away at Canes fans like a baby piranha. With each ugly interception the bites grow in size.
Harris has 8 interceptions on the year (he had 17 last season) through only four games. That number is way to high and something needs to be done.
I went to the tape for answers. As I re-watched the Clemson game earlier in the week I noticed several tendencies. First, when the running game gets going, Harris kills it. It opens everything up for him to make quick, easy reads with the defense on their heels. It’s no secret quarterbacks have a greater success rate with strong run support.
Then I noticed when the running game was contained—as it was for much of the game, especially in the second and third quarter—he struggled. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to reason that a quarterback is going to find more success on third and short than third and long.
Besides the errant throw picked off in the end zone in the second quarter, nearly every throw within twenty yards was in the right place at the right time.
Even when he makes an awful throw he comes back firing the next chance he gets. Great quarterbacks have a short memory. However, sometimes I get the feeling Jacory’s memory is little too short, as he often repeatedly makes the same mistakes. There are several ways the Miami coaching staff can limit these errors.
Take into consideration he plays in a very complex scheme, a pro set that relies heavily on timing and quick decision making. Most plays call for him to throw the ball to a spot on the field, where his receiver is suppose to wind up. It’s time to simplify things.
Utilizing easier throws like halfback screens and quick passes to the backs will not only increase Jacory’s confidence, but the team will reap the benefits. There would be less turnovers, often the difference between winning and losing.
The Canes face a critical ACC matchup at home with rival Florida State this Saturday (ABC 8:00 PM EST). The Seminoles rank fourth in the nation in rush defense, giving up just 2.04 yard per carry. Yards on the ground are going to be tough to come by, at least at the game’s onset.
Harris will have his opportunity to shine.
The Noles are vulnerable through the air, ranking 71st in the nation in pass defense. However, they also lead the nation in sacks. To take advantage of their weakness and at the same time neutralize the pass rush, they should use a similar opening game-plan to the one they deployed at Pitt, using three step drops and a quick passing attack, emphasizing short to intermediate crossing patterns and comeback routes.
That should be the blueprint for the offense for the first quarter and there is no doubt Harris can execute it. The offensive play-calling can’t get too aggressive too early. They have to be smart in this one, and not just let Harris sling it deep all night.
He can still revitalize his career as a Cane and at least partially live up to the hype with at least 8 games remaining on the year.
So what if he’s not Ken Dorsey. He is his own man and he is by far the best we have right now. I think he’s going to start getting it pretty soon.
As everyone gets more repetitions, the efficiency on offense will improve. At least he has the physical tools necessary to be a top passer. He has the arm, the accuracy and the poise. He just needs to sharpen up on his decision making.
Harris might never become the elite Heisman-caliber quarterback we all thirst for, but we should accept the guy for what he is, an accurate passer who loves to go for the big play, someone who will make an array of incredible throws during the course of a game but not without some costly mistakes sprinkled in between.
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