Harris shows Jets he has a 'presence'
Monday, May 14, 2007BY ELI GELMAN Star-Ledger Staff HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- It's the simple things in life that make David Harris smile.
He couldn't care less that he was stuck in a corner of the tiny auxiliary locker room with other prospects during Jets rookie minicamp this past weekend.
It's just a bit smaller than the one he was used to at Michigan, where he starred at linebacker.
"It's a locker room," said Harris, the Jets' second-round (47th overall) pick in last month's draft. "I really don't care about that stuff. It serves the purpose to fold your stuff, get dressed and get ready to go out and play.
"I just brought my clothes and a couple pairs of cleats (to camp) and I'm ready to go out and compete."
It's the attitude of a player who battled back from a ligament tear in his left knee during his freshman season to become one of the top linebackers in the country the past two years. Harris closed his collegiate career by earning All-America second-team honors and a share of the Bo Schembechler Most Valuable Player Award given to Michigan's top player.
His ability to close down the inside rushing lanes was a key to the Wolverines leading the nation in rush defense last season, allowing just 43.38 yards per game.
Harris' work against the run is the main reason the Jets traded with the Packers to move up in the second round to select the 6-2, 243-pounder. Harris will likely compete with Eric Barton for the starting inside spot alongside Jonathan Vilma as the team tries to improve its 24th-ranked run defense. Harris learned under Jets linebackers coach Jim Herrmann -- Michigan's former defensive coordinator -- and played in the 3-4 scheme his sophomore season.
Of course, an NFL system -- especially one as fluid as Jets coach Eric Mangini runs -- is a bit more advanced than the college game. Harris is hardly thinking about a potential starting job and is more concerned with getting his head around the huge amount of information thrown at him over the weekend.
"There's a lot more that they're throwing at you in the playbook," Harris said. "It's the NFL. There's a lot more checks and adjustments, a lot more fronts and different formations. You just have to be prepared for it.
"You have to be ready for everything. One time it might be 3-4, another it might be 4-3. You never know. I'm trying to work on my overall game and compete for a spot. It's a big challenge and I look forward to it."
Harris quickly caught the attention of teammates and coaches through the first two days of camp. They can see how he anchored the nation's top run defense.
"I can see it. I pay attention to him," said cornerback Darrelle Revis, the team's first-round pick. "You just see this big cat in the middle. You can tell. He's a competitor, works hard and I'm happy I'm his teammate."
"I really liked his inherent leadership, his presence," Mangini said. "He's showing some things in those tackling drills and those punt return drills and even as he's getting a better feel for how the runs are, how they hit, how the blocking scheme works. You can see some of the positive traits that he showed in college."
While Harris refused to talk about the prospect of starting, he said he'd like to pick the brain of Vilma and other veterans.
"You always learn something from the older guys and (Vilma's) a great player," Harris said.
Harris is also looking forward to chatting with Jets linebacker Victor Hobson, a fellow Michigan alum. Harris was redshirting when Hobson was a fifth-year senior. Hobson was the big man on campus at the time.
"I knew him, but back then they really didn't talk to freshmen coming in," Harris said. "I was a redshirt and just watched him handle himself. He's a heck of a player."
Chances are Hobson might now clear a few minutes for Harris.
Eli Gelman may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Harris Shows Jets He Has A 'presence'
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