Rookie Spotlight: Damien Harris, Alabama
Height: 5’10’’ (official)
Weight: 216 lbs (official)
Hands: 9 3/4” (official)
Arm: 30 3/4” (official)
40 yard dash: 4.57 (Combine)
NFL Comparison: Alex Collins, Marcus Lattimore
– works well in space
– elite ball security
– hard to bring down
– lacks burst
– not very elusive
Scouting Notes: Josh Jacobs may be the more coveted runner out of Alabama in this year’s draft, but Harris is no slouch. Yes, he may have underwhelmed somewhat in college, considering he was the No.1 running back recruit coming out of high school, but he still managed to get picked as a 2nd team ALL-SEC back his senior year (876 rushing yards, 9 TD, 204 receiving yards) after a moderately successful career in Tuscaloosa. Harris does most everything with proficiency. He’s not very explosive, but he makes up for it with stellar vision and a patience that many backs lack. He sees the field well and moves his body accordingly, maneuvering in space with ease. His build suits his position to a T – He’s got a solid, stout frame but he’s not excessively bulky. Harris doesn’t go down easy, absorbing first contact and churning forward. He does an equally capable job at blocking, squaring up and using sound technique to stifle defenders. Harris has secure hands that just don’t let go of the ball, and that will go a long way in the NFL – His ball skills translate to his pass-catching as well. The fact that Harris was in a crowded backfield may work in his favor ultimately, as he’s fresher than a lot of big backs in run heavy systems who are entering the draft.
Fantasy Outlook: If Jacobs is the no.1 back in the draft, then Harris makes a strong argument for no.2. He’s just as capable as Jacobs in a lot of ways, and he might be a bit more polished in all honesty – both have ball skills that are second to none in this class. He likely won’t make it past the second round, and that’s for good reason. Harris does lack elite speed, though, and he’s not terribly explosive, so it’s yet to be seen how his abilities transfer to the NFL. He stands a good chance of seeing game time early on, but I’m not sure he’ll be dynamic enough to be more than a chain mover. That being said, he’s an early pick in dynasty formats, as he could easily develop into an every week asset in standard or PPR formats.
Quotes from the Combine:
Q: How cool is it to be standing here next to your college teammate, Josh Jacobs:
Harris: “It’s a great experience. Being here itself is a tremendous blessing for all of us. We’re all thankful to be invited to the combine but it’s definitely special to be able to share this stage with somebody like Josh, an incredible player, even better person and two players at the same position at the same combine it’s truly special. So we’re taking it in and loving every minute of it.”
Q: What do you recall playing with Kenyon Drake?
Harris: “Kenyon was one of the first guys I ever became close with freshman year. He was always kind of like that older guy you looked up to. He did everything the right way. Veteran guy, really reliable so me and Kenyon are still close to this day.”
Q: How often do you guys talk?
Harris: “Pretty regularly.”
Q: What did you think of his touchdown at the end of the New England game?
Harris : “Man, that’s like a moment in NFL history. And it couldn’t happen to a more deserving player. Kenyon did a lot of great things for our program at Alabama. Got drafted, had a lot of success so I’m really proud of him. He’s that guy I look up to.”
Q: Did you reach out to him after that game?
Harris: “Yeah, I told him his celebration sucked.”
Q: What should he have done?
Harris: “I mean, the idea was ok the throw was just bad. Bad form, bad arm motion. It wasn’t very good.”
Q: Did you text him or talk to him over the phone?
Harris: “I texted him and told him again when I saw him in Miami for the Orange Bowl.”
Q: What did he say?
Harris: “He said he looked just fine. If he thinks that, his opinion is only one that really matters.”
Q: Your running style is totally different from his, right?
Harris: “Pretty different guys.”
Q: How would you describe your running style?
Harris: “Kenyon is more of a speedy back. He can take the ball 90 yards every time he touches it. Explosive runner. We share some of the same qualities, the same characteristics. But I’m more of an in-between the tackles kind of guy. We’re just different styles.”
Q: How did the competition with Josh or Kenyon or Bo Scarborough help you grow as a player?
Harris: “First of all there’s no competition. We’re all there for the same reason and that was to help our team be as successful as possible. However we had to do that, whether that was splitting carries or a certain guy getting a certain number of touches week in and week out, that was the challenge we were facing. So I think playing with a lot of those guys, not necessarily competing but trying to match each other’s intensity I think that set the stage for us here. Because we’re competing against NFL caliber guys at every single position so I want to be drafted as high as possible so that level of playing up to the competition at Alabama it will definitely benefit us here.”
Q: You didn’t get a ton of carries at Alabama. How do you think that benefits you?
Harris: “I mean, it can be looked at either way. I just like the narrative to be that I’m fresh, I’m healthy, I made I through college with very few limitations, no real major injuries and I just had a healthy career. That’s what I’m trying to tell teams. A lot of people already know that. That’s kind of the narrative out there right now.”
Q: What’s it like running behind Jonah Williams?
Harris: “Security blanket, whether it’s in the run game and our quarterbacks always felt safe behind him. Jonah is a prolific player. I think he’s the best tackle in the country. He showed that for three years at Alabama, came in and started as a true freshman and he’s just a different breed of player. You don’t see a lot of guys have that kind of success so early on in their career especially at a place like Alabama. Jonah always was a great player for us, he’s great in the run game, great in pass protection obviously. He’s just a real complete player.”
Q: What’s Jonah like?
Harris: “He’s a quiet guy, keeps to himself. He handles his business in a professional way, a first-class way. And that’s that. I can speak volumes on his character. You don’t ever see him putting himself in positions for anything negative to happen. He always has nice things to say about everybody, real respectful, great manners. Just a world-class guy.”
Q: Do you have a favorite blocking scheme to run behind?
Harris: “Not really. Anytime I can touch the ball I’m happy. I know that things will be different, the transition from college to the professional level. Lot of people run the same schemes but call things differently, it’s blocked a little differently here and there but that’s just something we’ll all have to adapt to.”
Q: Have you met with the Patriots?
Harris: “Not yet. Hopefully I will soon.”
Q: Is there an NFL running back whose style is like yours?
Harris: “Not really. I’m not really a comparison kind of guy. Everybody has their own identity, everybody has their own skill set so guys are more similar to other but I don’t really like to model my game after anybody. I just like to go out there and play and use the ability God gave me.”
Q: Who has been the strongest female influence in your life?
Harris: “My mother, no ifs, ands or buts. From an early age my mom always taught me that whatever you put your mind to you can do it. Our living situation wasn’t always the best growing up but my mom always found a way to provide for myself and others around me so that’s just kind of been her lesson to me. No matter what the circumstance the opportunity is what you make of it. All the lessons I’ve learned from her I can stand up here and talk about all day. She’s helped me be the person I am and without her I obviously wouldn’t be here today.”
Q: She didn’t want you to play football, right?
Harris: “A funny story. At first she didn’t want me to play. She was pretty against it. People around me, my friends, peers they convinced her to let me play and the first couple of games I hated playing football. I was in the first grade, I didn’t like the way the helmet fit on my head, getting dirty, I didn’t like getting hit so I just sat on the bench for like the first half of the season. One day we were playing in a place called (not sure what county in Kentucky) and it was snowing, freezing rain, freezing cold outside and my mom came out of the bleachers and she started yelling at me. She’s like, ‘I’m not just going to sit here and watch you drink up everybody else’s water. You’re either going to play or you’re going to go home. So I was crying, I was saying mom I don’t want to go home, all my friends are here so I went into the game and ended up having the game-winning touchdown in that game and since then I fell in love with it.”
Q: In the NFL you see a lot of two-back sets. Do you think you might be part of a rotation?
Harris: “That hasn’t necessarily been something that’s come up. I mean I’m used to it. That’s kind of how the system always has been at Alabama. That’s something we’re all used to, guys like me and Josh so if it’s something that’s the case I don’t think it will be a tough adjustment at the next level.”
Q: What aspect of your game do you want to most improve?
Harris: “Everything. This is a different level of competition, obviously. In college you know you play against great players every week but in the NFL every single player at every single position on every single team is the best of the best or they wouldn’t be professional. So it’s not one aspect of my game that needs more work than others. I think everything I can improve on and continue to get better at.”
Q: What advice do former Alabama backs like Mark Ingram share with you?
Harris: “To just enjoy this experience. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity we have here. Being invited to the NFL combine, when you first start playing football and you first start dreaming of being in the NFL the NFL combine is what kicks it off so just enjoy this moment, be thankful, be humble, express your gratitude, be nice, be kind to everybody and just thoroughly enjoy the moment.”
Q: Do you pay attention to mock drafts?
Q: You don’t even peek?
Harris: “I mean it’s kind of impossible not to see it, it’s all over social media and everywhere you turn. You have people texting you, oh you got projected here and this place said this and this place said that but at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter. Coach Saban kind of did a good job of coaching us up on that while we were at Alabama, not buying into the rat poison.”
Q: What about friends and family. Do you put a gag order on them?
Harris: “They kind of have an understanding. I know it’s exciting for them and they love to read stuff like that but ultimately that’s not going to get me where I want to go so I’m not big on projections, mock drafts or anything like that.”
Q: What’s your big selling point to clubs?
Harris: “You’re just going to get a dependable player. I’m a guy you give me a task, you tell me to do this, do that I’m going to do it, whether it’s block this guy, run this gap, look at the defense this way. Whatever you ask me to do I’m that dependable player you want. I did that for years at Alabama, everything they asked me to do I felt like I did. That’s kind of my selling point. Everybody has seen everybody’s tape, they’ve seen what everybody can do, we’re blessed with incredible ability so ultimately you have to find ways to separate yourself. I think this is a pretty loaded running back class this year. You have a lot of guys projected to go high so you just have to sell yourself on how you can be a difference player.”
Q: What’s it like to have seen Josh Jacob’s rise?
Harris: “It’s been incredible. If you know Josh you know his story, where he comes from so just seeing him being able to have that success and the blessings that have come his way are truly remarkable and I can’t think of a more deserving guy than someone like Josh. It’s an incredible honor to have played with him for three years. I had the privilege of being his roommate for all three years on weekends for games and developing that relationship with him and knowing him the way I know him and seeing everything that’s come his way it’s well deserved.”
Q: Why did you say you’d like to meet with the Patriots while you’re here?
Harris: “Well, for clarification I hope to meet with all 32 teams. But the Patriots obviously are a great organization. People like to compare them to us. Coach Belichick and coach Saban, everybody knows they’re great friends and people like to think they run their programs the same so that would be an easy fit for any guy that’s come out of Alabama.”
Q: How will the structure and regimen at Alabama prepare you for NFL life?
Harris: “It’s obviously a tough adjustment, just like from high school to college. You’re going to have your struggles but it’s just about adapting. Are you mentally tough enough to overcome the lack of I would say guidance you have in college. In college you got people telling you when to go to class, when to go to study hall, when to eat, when to work out, do this and do that. In the NFL they just send you a fine. So it’s definitely one of the biggest challenges people said they have faced but everybody has their own advice and how to make the adjustment and make that next step. You just have to take it all in and do your best.”
Q: How big of a role does tape study play in your game?
Harris: “I think that’s the best way to learn about your opponent. Watching film personally is something that I love to do. To be honest with you I’d rather watch film than look at a playbook or anything like that because I feel that’s the most effective way of learning for me personally is sitting down, watching tape, watching how guys play, how teams line up in certain rotations, how they rotate their secondary, their linebacker depth and trying to get a clue on when they’re going to blitz. There’s so many different things you find out on film and there’s a self-scout aspect of it, watching yourself on film, did I do this to the best of my ability, could I have done better, improving yourself each and every week. I think that’s a way that you continue to improve and have success at this professional level.”
Q: A lot of people have compared you and Bennie Snell at Kentucky. What have you thought watching him the last few years knowing you may have been a part of that program?
Harris: “Bennie Snell is a great player. Nobody can deny that. Nobody can take that away from him. His accomplishments along with the rest of the team the last three years have been remarkable. Coach Stoops has done a really great job. I still maintain a pretty close relationship with him even though I chose to Alabama. But the success he’s had, Bennie’s had, Josh Allen, all those guys is truly remarkable. Even though I didn’t end up going there, still being from the state of Kentucky still brings me a lot of pride.”
Q: What kind of player will NFL teams get in you?
Harris: “A very dependable player. Smart player, instinctive player, player who can play inside and out. Somebody if you tell me to do something I’m going to do it. It might not be the most exciting thing. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I’m going to break a 60-ayrd touchdown run every time I get the ball. But I’m a guy who does things by the book and by the rules. If that’s a 1-yard gain, a 2-yard gain, a 5-yard gain, that’s what it’s going to be. If you tell me to block this guy, pick up this guy in pass protection that’s what I’m going to do.”
Q: Has it helped you to be able to share carries at Alabama and preserve your body?
Harris: “I was fortunate to always play with great running backs and we could always split the load. Everybody kind of always looked at that like a downfall, don’t you wish
you had gotten more carries. I mean, getting to play with guys like Josh, Derrick Henry, Kenyon Drake, Bo Scarborough, Najee Harris, Robinson, the list goes on and on.
Being able to play with those guys and sit in the room with those guys is truly special. So I’m grateful for my time and the way things played out.”
Q: Advice from Derrick Henry.
Harris: “Yeah, I’ve talked to Derrick a lot since he left. He’s always been there to give us advice. During the season he always gave us advice. Once the season ended as far as things like picking an agent or the NFL combine or what the transition is like, Derrick always has been a guy who was there to help us out and help us improve as players and people. So Derrick has been a tremendous role model for me. My freshman year seeing the things he did and accomplished was unbelievable. Kind of set a pretty high standard after he left. Derrick has always been a great player, a great person and a great mentor so I’m thankful for that.”
Q: Mock drafts don’t have any running backs going in round one. Does that bug you at all?
Harris: “I’m not out here to prove I’m a first-round draft pick. I’m here to prove that I’m going to be the best player I can be. If you consider me to be a first-round draft pick then I thank you but I think too many times people get caught up in I have to show I’m a top 10 pick, I’m a top 15 pick. It’s not about that. These teams know what we can do. The combine is just a great way to put on a performance in person.”
The Tide’s top runner in a deep group of backs … passed up entering the NFL Draft to return for his senior season … totaled 3,070 career yards to rank eighth all-time at UA and make him one of just eight backs in program history to eclipse the 3,000-yard mark … averaged 6.4 yards per carry on 477 carries for his career to set the Alabama all-time career mark (minimum 400 rushes) … registered nine 100-yard performances for his career, including two in 2018, to tie for ninth in UA annals … selected to the All-SEC second team by the conference coaches … accumulated a team-leading 876 yards with nine scores on a team-high 150 carries for an average of 5.8 yards per tote as a senior … totaled 44 carries for a first down or touchdown and owns the longest rush by a Tide running back in 2018 at 73 yards … added 22 receptions for 204 yards for an average of 9.3 yards per catch … second team preseason All-America selection by the Associated Press and Phil Steele … also tabbed a third team preseason All-America candidate by Athlon … preseason selection on the Maxwell, Doak Walker and Walter Camp Player of the Year award watch lists … selected as one of the Alabama coaching staff’s offensive players of the week for his efforts at Ole Miss, against Texas A&M and at Arkansas and LSU. Louisville: Rushed for 55 yards on seven carries with a long gain of 32 … added one reception for 14 yards in the season opener. Arkansas State: Carried 12 times for 61 yards with a long rush of 17 yards against the Red Wolves … also hauled in one pass for 14 yards. Ole Miss: Accumulated 85 all-purpose yards in just over a half of play in Oxford … carried five times for a team-leading 62 yards and a score to average a whopping 12.4 yards per carry … paced all receivers with four catches out of the backfield totaling 23 yards … named one of UA’s offensive players of the week by the coaching staff for his night against the Rebels. Texas A&M: Totaled 100 yards of total offense with 52 on the ground and 48 through the air … rushed seven times for 52 yards and caught two passes for 48 yards with a season-long 52-yard catch … earned offensive player of the week honors from the Tide coaches for his performance against the Aggies. Louisiana: Saw limited playing time in a game that favored the Tide early … carried five times for 20 yards and added one reception for a gain of six before exiting the game. Arkansas: Totaled a season-high 111 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries … had six rushes of 11 yards or more while converting six first downs and his two scores against the Hogs … added one reception out of the backfield for 13 yards … selected as one of the Alabama coaching staff’s offensive players of the week for his efforts in Fayetteville. Missouri: Led all Alabama rushers with 14 carries for 62 yards and a touchdown … averaged 4.4 yards per tote with a long rush of 20 yards against the Tigers. Tennessee: Carried three times for 12 yards with his fifth touchdown of the season … added one catch for 11 yards in Knoxville. LSU: Notched his second 100-plus yard performance of the season, totaling 107 yards on 19 carries with one score … added three receptions for six yards for 113 all-purpose yards against the Tigers … named one of the Alabama coaching staff’s offensive players of the week for his play on the Bayou. Mississippi State: Totaled 53 yards and one touchdown on 14 carries … carried it in the end zone from one-yard out for the Tide’s first score of the afternoon. The Citadel: Registered a season-high 73-yard rush as part of his 83-yard performance on just seven carries … averaged 11.9 yards per tote before exiting the game early with an injury. Auburn: Led all backs with nine carries for 41 yards against the Tigers … added one reception for 11 yards and a first down on Senior Day. Georgia: Carried the ball a team-leading nine times for 52 total yards with a long rush of 14 … added one reception against the Bulldogs in the SEC title game. Oklahoma: Recorded a pair of touchdown runs on his 13 carries totaling 48 yards … added two receptions for 25 yards with both catches resulting in an Alabama first down. Clemson: Tied for the team lead in carries with 11 going for 57 yards to average 5.2 yards per carry … added two reception