No. 1 Overall Recruit Najee Harris Plans to Use All Five Official Visits

Tyler Donohue@@TDsTakeNational Recruiting AnalystDecember 6, 2016

Credit: Student Sports

Harbaugh and the Wolverines will welcome Harris to campus this weekend.
Harbaugh and the Wolverines will welcome Harris to campus this weekend.Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The long-awaited college football career of lauded California running back Najee Harris commences next month, but he plans to stay busy in the meantime.

Weeks away from early enrollment, the Alabama Crimson Tide commit intends to further explore alternative collegiate opportunities.

"I'm trying to take all my officials if I can," Harris told Bleacher Report.

He will travel to Ann Arbor, Michigan, this weekend for an up-close look at the Michigan Wolverines. Beyond that, schedule restrictions could dictate how Harris wraps up a whirlwind recruiting process.

"It seems like I'll only have time to visit the in-state ones probably," he said.

Harris, considered the 2017 class' No. 1 overall recruit in Scout.com rankings, identified Cal and USC as targeted upcoming official visits. He previously used official visits to UCLA (Nov. 12) and Alabama (Nov. 26). 

Committed to the Crimson Tide since his sophomore year, Harris attended the Iron Bowl to watch Alabama cap off a perfect regular season. Now it’s Michigan's turn to make a final pitch for the country's most coveted playmaker.

"I'll be focused on the people—who you'll be around with for your years in college," he said. "The community is what matters. Your position coach and your head coach. That's the main thing."

Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh has been highly successful on the recruiting trail since returning to his alma mater. A flip from Harris would give him the nation's premier prospect for a second consecutive cycle (New Jersey defensive lineman Rashan Gary was No. 1 in the 2016 class).

Harbaugh created quite a stir when he visited Antioch High School earlier in the process, according to Harris. His success with the Stanford Cardinal and San Francisco 49ers established a lasting reputation in the region, and several teammates were starstruck.

"He's a legend in my area in a way," Harris said. "What Harbaugh did—to go to the NFL and do that, then go to college at Michigan and do that again—that's one of the best coaches."

He acknowledged Harbaugh and Alabama head coach Nick Saban are "extremely" different coaches but noted "they're both good people."

Harris observed Saban operates with a "straight business" approach, while Harbaugh is "juiced" and "full of energy." Most importantly, they share a penchant for developing winners.

Outside of a select few staffs, his communication with college coaches is limited. Harris doesn't use Twitter and recently received a new phone number, coinciding with the final recruiting "contact period" before his enrollment.

"Lucky for me, I changed my number at the right time," he said.

A small collection of schools are in possession of Harris' current contact information and that's the way he prefers it. The recruiting spotlight isn’t something Harris craves and schools still in the picture have adapted to his personality.

"Even if they have my number, colleges know I don't like all that attention or being bugged all the time," he said. "They give me my space."

Several staffs—sensing their chances with Harris were unrealistic—completely unplugged from the pursuit as things progressed.

"They shut it down for themselves," he said. "They'll literally come and tell me 'We don't have a shot with you, so we won't talk to you,' and I respect it."

Harris, who spent the past three days in New York City on a tour with fellow U.S. Army Player of the Year finalists, finished his last high school season Saturday. A third straight 2,000-yard rushing campaign ended in the state sectional title game, concluding Antioch's finest season since the 1970s. 

"My senior year journey has been crazy," Harris said. "I can't be more happy about my team and how we've changed things around from years past, on the field and in the community. It's all beautiful to see."

Harris, who stands approximately 6'3", 225 pounds, gained more than 7,500 rushing yards during the past three seasons, per MaxPreps, accounting for 97 total touchdowns during that span. His blend of size, speed and production have drawn lofty comparisons throughout a dominant prep career.

"Adrian Peterson and Derrick Henry are two that come to mind that I have scouted that I can compare him to," U.S. Army All-American Bowl national recruiting director Erik Richards said. "Najee is better out of the backfield than both of those U.S. Army Bowl alumni."

Regardless of where Harris lands next season, he intends to make a case for immediate reps out of the offensive backfield. 

"Yeah, I would hope so. That's what I'm praying for," Harris said. "I know my abilities and I've got to keep working, but if any college gave me a shot right away, I'm going to take advantage of that. You've just got to show them who you are. This recruiting stuff only shows so much because no matter what you do, it's high school."

As Alabama attempts to extend a lengthy commitment across the finish line, Michigan, Cal and USC may each warrant one last chance to change the mind of this West Coast wunderkind.

Tyler Donohue is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Quotes and observations obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Prospect ratings and information courtesy of Scout.

Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake.

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