In part three of our Heisman Dark Horse candidates, we take a look at Miami quarterback Jacory Harris. In case you missed them, we featured Florida State’s Christian Ponder in our first article (see link) and West Virginia running back Noel Devine in our second article (see link).
After splitting snaps with Robert Marve as a freshman, Harris took the reigns last season exclusively. And the then-sophomore QB didn’t disappoint. When the dust settled, Harris led the ACC with 3,352 yards passing. In order for Harris to have a legitimate shot at the Heisman, at least two things must happen in 2010. College FootBlog takes an in-depth look at these items and analyzes Harris’ chances of punching a plane ticket to New York this December.
Harris must cut down on his interceptions: Although he threw for over 3,000 yards and 24 touchdowns, Harris was picked off 17 times in 2009. Not only do the interceptions hurt his stats, a deeper look at those picks shows that when Harris struggles, his team struggles. In Miami’s four losses in 2009, Harris threw eight picks, including four against North Carolina.
Many of those picks were due to poor decisions and/or bad reads. Other picks were caused by pressure up the middle that did not allow Harris to properly step into his throws, which caused the ball to float, giving the defensive backs time to adjust and attack the ball at its highest point. He must improve this if he wants to show up on anyone’s Heisman radar this fall.
Will it happen? It should. With a full year under his belt and home games against Virginia Tech and North Carolina (two games Harris really struggled) and an off-season to study film can only help him. An injured thumb on his throwing hand didn’t help Harris last year, either. Harris had surgery on that thumb and appears to be ready to go for two-a-days, and because he was not able to throw this spring, he spent his time in film study, which should improve his decisions and reads this fall.
Harris must shine in his nationally televised games: This point directly ties into the previous one–decision-making. Harris will lead his team into some of the most hostile stadiums in the country this year, traveling to Columbus to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes and they travel to Death Valley to take on Clemson, who Harris struggled against last season.
Each of those games has a great shot at national coverage, and the annual rivalry games against Florida State and Virginia Tech will likely be opportunities for Harris and the ‘Canes to play in front of a national audience. If North Carolina continues where they left off last season, there is a chance for yet another nationally televised game against the Tar Heals as well. Big performances in those games would go a long way in impressing Heisman voters who are not in the southeastern United States.
Will it happen? Probably, but how much he improves is debatable. What should concern ‘Canes fans is that ten of his 17 Int’s came against the good defenses he faced. Miami played five games against defenses that ranked in the Top 20 in the country, and there was only one of those games (Wisconsin) that Harris made it through the game without throwing the ball to the wrong-colored jersey.
The Hurricanes will again have to face top-tier defenses in 2010, and that includes trips to Ohio State (ranked #5 in total defense in 2009) and Pitt (ranked #23 in total defense in 2009). They get North Carolina and rivals Florida State and Virginia Tech at home, but they travel to Death Valley to take on a Clemson defense that roughed Harris up several quarterbacks last year.