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Harris isn’t 100 percent committed anymore?
Najee Harris, the nation’s No. 1 player from Antioch (Calif.) High School who has been committed to Alabama for more than a year now, told SEC Country this summer that he was 100 percent committed to the Tide. That may not be the case anymore, according to a recent interview.
Harris was presented his Army All-American jersey a few days ago, and he told reporters in attendance that he plans on taking all five official visits before he enrolls in college this January because he plans to enroll early. Those official visit destinations have not been set yet, but what he said next is a bit concerning for Tide fans.
“Let’s say this: My mind isn’t set on Alabama. I’m not 100 percent set on Alabama,” Harris said, according to USA Today. “I’m trying to see what else is out there for me.”
The 5-star running back is a straight-shooter in interviews, so it’s surely an interesting thing for him to say. When he visited Tuscaloosa this summer for one of Alabama’s camps, he told coaches that he was 100 percent committed. One source close to the team told SEC Country recently, though, that he had no idea what Harris was ultimately going to do with his recruitment.
On the Harris side of things, one source close to him told SEC Country that “Obama couldn’t change this kid’s mind,” when asked about his commitment to Alabama.
So, to sum up, no one truly knows where things stand when it comes to Harris’ recruitment. Alabama is still recruiting Harris as if he’s an uncommitted prospect because the staff knows it’s going to be a battle until January when his recruitment comes to an end.
I also don’t think he’ll end up taking all five visits because he is an early enrollee. There’s not much time to squeeze in five trips. Remember, the dead period goes into effect on Dec. 12. During that time, prospects cannot take official visits. When the dead period ends, Harris will have already been on campus of the school he enrolls in.
Do I expect Alabama to lose Harris’ commitment? I really don’t. The Tide have only positives to offer Harris. They have arguably the nation’s top strength coach in Scott Cochran. That’s a big deal because Harris is a workout warrior.
“Najee’s only downfall is he works out too much,” a source close to Harris said. “I am trying to have him enjoy his senior year.”
He usually works out twice a day — sometimes three times. The only days where he doesn’t exert all of his energy in the weight room is on game days and on Sundays.
Another positive Alabama has going for it is Harris’ relationship with outside linebackers coach Tosh Lupoi, who is the running back’s primary recruiter. Lupoi has had a standing relationship with Harris since the recruit’s eighth-grade year when the coach was an assistant at the University of Washington. Lupoi, according to the source close to Harris, was one of the first college coaches to see Harris’ potential.
“Tosh believed in me when I told him about Najee as an eighth-grader,” the source said. “I told him that Najee Harris was going to be the next great athlete to come out of the Bay.”
Harbaugh to visit Harris this week
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is going to take advantage of the Wolverines’ bye week by making a trip to California this Friday to see Harris’ Antioch Panthers take on Liberty High School, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The Wolverines — not Southern California and UCLA — are starting to emerge as the Crimson Tide’s biggest competition to keep Harris committed.
Harris visited Ann Arbor, Mich., this summer with his mother, Tianna Hicks. That’s a big deal because Hicks doesn’t make every single recruiting trip with her son. That trip, by all accounts, went well, like every other trip made by recruits nationwide.
Both Alabama and Michigan have freshman running backs making an impact in their first year on campus, so the roster situations are nearly the same at both schools. The Tide have used both Joshua Jacobs and B.J. Emmons in games this year, and both have looked like very capable backs.
Depth chart concerns are not something that Harris is thinking about, though. He’s a fierce competitor and isn’t worried about who he has to pass on the depth chart in order to play.
If anything, the biggest difference between Michigan and Alabama are their head coaches and how both have handled Harris’ recruitment.
Harbaugh hosted a satellite camp at Antioch High School this summer with the hopes to show Harris how badly he wants him in the Wolverines’ Class of 2017. In one of their first meetings, the Michigan coach commented on the running back’s looks in a light-hearted manner.
“You’re a beautiful young man!” Harbaugh told Harris, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Harbaugh then suggested that Harris could be a movie star with his looks.
Harris commented on what he thinks about the Wolverines coach.
“He’s dope,” Harris said. “Everybody thinks he’s weird, but he’s not weird. I like him a lot. He’s a funny dude. He’s cool.”
In that same interview, Harris described AlabNick Saban as “very strict” and “straight business.” That’s not necessarily a bad thing because Harris, too, is all about business on the field.
It should be noted that Harris is a big fan of the prestige that Alabama possesses at the running back position, with having two Heisman Trophy winners at the position in the school’s history.
Where does Alabama turn if Harris de-commits?
Alabama does have another running back commitment in the Class of 2017 in 4-star prospect Brian Robinson, who hails from Tuscaloosa.
Robinson and Harris are not nearly on the same talent level, but to be fair to the former, no running back prospect is really in the same league as Harris.
Robinson is a big, bulldozer-type of running back, but he lacks the ability to break away from opposing defenses. With his size at 6-foot-2, 216 pounds, he also doesn’t shed the amount of tackles you think he would.
The Tide would take a big hit if Harris were to de-commit, but there are several options for Alabama:
Cam Akers, 5-star, Clinton, Miss.
Akers was once committed to Alabama, but he de-committed from the Tide in March. He will take an official visit to Alabama on Oct. 22 for the team’s game against Texas A&M, but Akers is a long shot to rejoin the class.
If Harris were to de-commit, and Akers could be the featured back in Alabama’s class, would he start to consider the Tide more strongly? That is a question that I’d like to get the answer to.
Akers is rated as the nation’s No. 2 running back.
Anthony McFarland, 4-star, Hyattsville, Md.
McFarland told SEC Country this summer at The Opening in July that Alabama was his leader. Since then, Maryland, the in-state school, has been the one with the momentum its way.
That could be because numbers are very tight in Alabama’s class, and it looks highly unlikely that the Tide would sign three running backs this year.
If Harris were to de-commit, we could see Alabama pursue the all-purpose back more intensely.
Travis Etienne, 3-star, Jennings, La.
Before abruptly committing to Texas A&M this summer — he has since de-committed from the program — Alabama was Etienne’s leader.
The Tide did reach out to him this summer after he de-committed, but that was when numbers in the class weren’t so tight.
Etienne may be the best bet to replace Harris if he were to de-commit.
All rankings are provided by the 247Sports composite unless otherwise noted.
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