An inside or middle linebacker can make or break a defense. They generally
have the responsibility of reading the offense and changing the defense accordingly.
Also, they play key roles in both run and pass coverage.
Several teams will be targeting inside linebackers, who could potentially be a force in the middle of their defense for years to come, in this year's draft. One of those targeted players is Michigan linebacker David Harris.
Harris attended Ottawa Hills High School in Grand Rapids, Mich. During his time there, he participated in football as well as track and field. He especially excelled on the football field, recording a school-record 158 tackles as a junior. As a senior he registered 140 tackles on defense; he also rushed for 565 yards and nine touchdowns as the team's fullback.
Harris' outstanding high school career led to a scholarship to the University of Michigan. Harris played a full collegiate career, starting the last two seasons and winning the Roger Zatcoff Award (Michigan's top linebacker) twice. He was also named to the All-Big Ten first team and shared team MVP honors with running back Mike Hart.
Harris is one of the top three inside linebackers in the draft, on most boards. His high positional ranking is due to a long list of strengths and positive attributes.
One of Harris' most appealing attributes is his intelligence. He has displayed the ability to read plays before the snap. This translates well into the professional game and is key factor in the development of any middle linebacker.
Harris also has some terrific physical attributes. He has good speed and can run with most tight ends. Some scouts say that he runs faster than his 40 times indicate. This also makes him a very effective blitzer. Along with speed, Harris has great agility, displaying good lateral movement, but his hips need to open wider when entering change-of-direction situations.
Harris is very aggressive against the run and is a hard hitter. He is very effective against the run, and is above-average in pass coverage, excelling in zone coverage. Harris is an ideal fit as an inside linebacker in a 3-4 defensive alignment.
Also, Harris has proven he can compete against top talent, as he faced some solid teams from the Big Ten and around the nation.
Harris is not an ideal athlete and may have limited upside. He also has averaged timed speed.
Harris can over-pursue at times, which can be a direct result from his aggressiveness. He can also struggle navigating through traffic, getting caught up at times. His reaction times are also slower than most scouts would desire.
The biggest concerns surrounding Harris are his short arms and his tendency to occasionally miss tackles. He will likely need to work hard to eliminate the missed tackles to have success at the next level.
Also, some wonder how Harris will perform if he is not surrounded with a strong supporting cast. He was a member of one of college football's premier defenses last season; however, without a wealth of talent around him, can he still perform at such a high level?
Harris has the potential to be drafted in the early-to-mid-second round; however, he could also fall into the late third or possibly early fourth. Possible destinations are the New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions, Kansas City Chiefs and Carolina Panthers.
Harris is a top-three inside linebacker heading into the draft. He really improved his stock in 2006, recording 103 tackles, 15 for loss, and four sacks. He isn't the most impressive athlete and may not have all the measurables most scouts look for; however, he usually gets the job done on the field.
Harris will need to improve on some of his weakness if he wants to be an effective player in the pros. If he fails to improve in some areas he may be destined to be a backup or a situational player. Overall Harris is a solid prospect.
About Mike Mady
Mike Mady has been a KFFL contributor since 2005.
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