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June 10, 2005

A new home for Harris

Running back Andre Harris is use to being the big man on campus, but for the last five months, he's been the new kid on the block.

In 2004, Harris was a one-man wrecking crew for a Palisades football team that finished the season 1-9. After a post-season transfer, Harris joined perennial city-section power Woodland Hills (Calif.) Taft in an attempted to gain more exposure from college scouts.

The transition wasn't easy.

"At first it was kind of hard because I was an outsider," explained Harris. "I wasn't really with the guys that much and I started to worry that maybe I made a bad decision.

"They thought I couldn't play good because I came from a small school, but then again it was hard learning the different things that coach Starr was teaching.

"At my old school we never trained like I do here. Just the little things like foot-firing, hand technique . . . stuff like that. So when I first came out to practice at Taft I looked bad. But then I realized that I had competed my whole life. When I went home and worked the things they showed me in practice I improved a lot. Now everything is good and I'm with my new teammates."

As a junior, Harris ran for 693 yards and three touchdowns on 103 carries. Without much of a supporting cast and a lack of stats, Harris was forced to gain the attention from recruiters by other means.

Transferring to Taft was step one. Step two was hitting the camp/combine circuit this spring.

"I was just trying to do the best I could - trying to get my name on the map," said Harris. "I didn't have that many yards as a running back last year, so it was all about coming out and proving myself."

At the Southern California NIKE Camp in April, Harris did just that by bench pressing 185-pounds 22 times and posting a vertical jump of 31-inches at 6-foot, 220-pounds. In one-on-ones, Harris was focused on excelling in one specific area.

"I performed good and showed people my versatility," said Harris. "I showed them that I can catch the ball and that I'm fast for my size."

Speed is a relative term, especially at Taft. Wide receiver Jamere Holland is one of Harris' new teammates. Possibly the fastest high school football player in the country, Holland's 10.40 100-meter speed combined with Harris' power running should give the Toreadors a lethal one-two punch.

"We haven't really talked about it much, but it's probably going to be impossible to stop," said Harris. "Coach Starr says we're going to run the ball more this year, but we'll still be balanced. We're just going to throw combos out there and keep the other teams guessing."

Harris will also require a balanced offensive attack from the college of his choice. Harris' top three reflects a desire to play in a pro-style scheme.

"I have good hands and I like the West Coast offense because they pass the ball out of the backfield," said Harris. "Right now Cal is on top and USC is just under them. Washington State is in there too, but I'd like to hear more from Cal."

Running back coach Todd McNair and defensive back coach Greg Burns are recruiting Harris for USC. However, it was a brief conversation with Trojans' head coach Pete Carroll that stood out for Harris.

"Coach Carroll said I'm a wonderful athlete and that I'd fit in well at USC," said Harris. "He said if I do well at the camp and the first two or three games of the season I might get an offer.

"USC is a championship team and the environment that they have is great. I went to their Junior Day and it was laid-back, but they also expect more from you. USC expects you to work hard on your own terms."

Unfortunately for Harris, he won't be able to make it to this weekend's Trojans' skills camp.

"SC called me and told me they wanted me to camp there so they could see me play," said Harris. "They want to see if I can really catch the ball. I can't go to the camp on June 11th because we (Taft) have a passing league game, but I might go to their senior camp later on."

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