2013 Virginia Football Roster Profile: Anthony Harris

Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

One week from now, fans will be begin arriving in Charlottesville in preparation for the opener against BYU, which lies just 8 days away. Today, we look at starting SS Anthony Harris, the team's leading returning tackler. Harris had a very good year last year, perhaps the best of all the DBs. He's developed very quickly, especially considering he hadn't played football until his sophomore year of HS.

Position: SS
Height: 6’1"
Weight: 190
Hometown: Chesterfield, Va
High School: Lloyd C. Bird HS
Year: Junior
Twitter: @HOOSDatDude

Anthony ‘Ant’ Harris played all over the field in HS. He was a QB, WR, and DB. Nobody saw him as a QB at this level, but he could’ve played either offense or defense. Scout actually rated him as a 3 star WR, and the 68th best WR in the nation. Both ESPN and Rivals rated him as an athlete, with ESPN called him a 2 star and Rivals a 3 star. Rivals ranked him 34th and ESPN ranked him 203rd. The big disparity between the rankings is strange and may have something to do with his lack of a defined position, as well as his relative inexperience. Harris didn’t play football until his sophomore season, and then missed the end of his junior season.

Harris had offers from West Virginia, Connecticut and a few others. Some schools may have shied away because of the injury he suffered. He was recruited by most as a DB, although many people thought he’d fit better as a WR. Certainly, his height and speed would play well at WR. Harris runs a mid 4.5ish 40, certainly good enough for a 6’1" WR or DB.

The Hoos were initially looking at Harris as a CB, but he was slotted at SS right away when he enrolled. He saw time in every game as a true freshman, almost exclusively on special teams, and finished with 14 tackles. Last year, he started all 12 games and finished with 87 tackles, making him the leading returning tackler. He also had .5 TFLs, 1 forced fumble, 3 passes defended and 1 INT.

During the 2012 season, Harris played FS. This makes some sense for a guy who some saw as a CB. The problem with that wasn’t really about Harris. The problem was that Harris at FS meant Brandon Phelps at SS. And Phelps is a more natural cover-guy than Harris, and a better fit at FS. Harris is bigger, he’s stronger, and he’s a much better tackler. That makes Harris a better fit at SS. One of the first things new DC Jon Tenuta did was switch Harris and Phelps.

Harris has put on some muscle during his 2 years in the program, and that will help him in Tenuta’s defense. Tenuta is going to use Harris all over the field. He’ll come up into the box on some plays, he’ll cover TEs on some plays, he’ll be in deep cover-2 on some plays, and he’ll be blitzing on some plays. Harris doesn’t have a lot of experience with the blitzing part, but he’s certainly capable of all aspects of Tenuta’s defense. He’s probably not quick enough to cover a WR man-to-man, but he’s definitely able to work in a deep zone and provide help over the top.

Harris has also become a vocal leader for the defense and the DBs in general. In practice, he’s been seen around helping the younger guys with positioning and with reads. Harris is a high IQ player, which is key important in Coach Tenuta’s defense. With such a young defense, Harris is going to team with Demetrious Nicholson as the leaders of the secondary.

One is left to wonder how Harris may have developed without playing his freshman season. With such limited playing experience prior to college, he may have been better off taking a redshirt year. He played very well on special teams, so it is fair to question whether somebody else could’ve been as effective as Harris. Therefore, it isn’t fair to say that it was a wasted season. But Harris has developed very quickly, and might’ve been special as a 5 year senior with 4 years as a starter. Then again, maybe he wouldn’t have been the starter last year without having seen the field in 2011.

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