Damien Harris spurns UK, rolls with the Tide



By Joshua Huff

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Three hats lied in front of five-star running back Damien Harris as he sat at the podium in the gymnasium of Madison Southern High School. The future of his college football career was stitched into one of the three caps.

The choice of committing to Ohio State, UK or Alabama was Harris’ to make. One school was set to become the recipient of one of the best high school players to ever play in Kentucky. Many speculators expected him to embrace the hometown hero role, but a late push from Alabama head coach Nick Saban propelled the SEC juggernaut of the Crimson Tide into the recruiting forefront.

The stress and pressure melted off Harris the minute he picked up the Alabama hat, and the fans of the Bluegrass were left with the thought of what could have been. They tentatively clapped at first, but ultimately rose in enthusiasm in what was the realization of a dream come true for many high school players.

UK is now faced with the reality of its position within the SEC. A three-win improvement highlighted head coach Mark Stoops’ second season helming the Cats, and another highly- touted recruiting class will come to campus next season. But the loss of Harris confirms that UK is far from a desired destination in the conference, just as the Oakland Raiders are in the NFL.

However, the glass is not half empty. The idea that UK was even in contention for the No. 60th rated player in the country (according to 247sports.com) is a vast improvement from where UK was three years ago. The Cats’ 2015 recruiting class is ranked 29th in the country by 247sports.com and their lead recruiter, Vince Marrow, spurned Michigan to return to UK; a step in the right direction.

The news of Harris donning crimson is also great news for current UK sophomore running back Stanley “Boom” Williams, who cemented his status as the Cats’ running back of the future. UK struggled in the run game last season, averaging just 153 yards a game; ranked 77th in the nation. UK utilized a three to four running back system that hampered the growth of the offense. Despite that, Williams came through during UK’s finish, showing flashes of dominance that should carry over into next season.

Had Harris come to UK, it’s a safe bet that Williams’ potential of becoming a three-down back would have been in jeopardy, assuming Harris extended his brilliance on the high school gridiron to the college game.

Instead, Harris will join an Alabama team that is losing its star running back, T.J. Yeldon, to the NFL draft this year. However, the Crimson Tide retains a plethora of depth at the position. Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake top a backfield that is seven running backs deep. Harris will have his work cut out for him if he wants to see the field in Alabama.