by Chris Johnson (@ChrisDJohnsonn)
Name: Matt Harris
School: Lyons Township High School (La Grange, Illinois)
Star rating: 3-star
Other offers: Boston College, Wisconsin, Illinois, Miami (OH), Minnesota, Toledo
The Scouting Report
From ESPN Recruiting Nation:
“Harris is productive as a receiver, defensive back and special team's player; his size and athleticism appear suited for the wide receiver position at the major level of completion. Over time his frame should be capable of supporting additional bulk however there is the need to improve burst and playing speed. Demonstrates strong wrap tackling ability as a defensive back; flashes steady production as a kickoff return specialist and should be an effective special team's coverage defender.”
What he’s saying
"I just felt like it was the best fit for me," Harris said of Northwestern. "All the other schools that I got offers from, they were all great schools, and I feel like any one would have been good, but Northwestern was the perfect fit for me and my family."
What’s the Hype?
The depth at cornerback continues to grow through the roof with another excellent pickup at the position from La Grange, Ill. Harris joins Marcus McShepard and Keith Watkins in the cornerback grouping of this 2013 class, but his intended college was was never 100 percent clear throughout his recruitment. Schools also inquired about Harris as a wide receiver, enamored with his natural athletic talents (he captained Lyons high school in both football and track) and shrewd football instincts.
His arrival adds more competition to an already loaded position. Not only do the Wildcats have first-rate young talent poised to line up this season – Nick VanHoose, Dwight White, C.J. Bryant, to name a few – they have three new corners, Harris included, to beef up the reserve ranks and foster a competitive practice environment. With so much talent, and only two spots to fill, not everyone is going to get a starter’s share of snaps, but know this: Harris will be in the mix.
What about next year?
Judging playing time allotments and plotting eligibility timelines is not the easiest thing to do at this stage. I’d need to see Harris (and Watkins and McShepard) compete with teammates to truly gauge whether they stand a chance of playing this season. But I’ve maintained throughout this recruiting process that Keith Watkins at least appears to be the most refined of the three cornerback prospects. That isn’t saying much, obviously; when high school high tapes are your measuring stick, the results aren’t going to be perfect. Harris might surprise me and make the roster right out of preseason workouts. I’m just not ready to go that far right now – not without seeing more.
What about the future?
For a position that’s endured a national and regional media flogging in recent years for its inability to hold down passing offenses in critical late-game situations, the secondary is developing an intriguing talent base and looks set to grow into one of Northwestern’s strongest position units within the next few years. Putting Harris aside for a moment, just think about this potential lineup: Traveon Henry and Kyle Quiero/Godwin Igwebuike (unless he chooses running back) at safety; Nick VanHoose and Harris/McShepard/Watkins at cornerback. Find a position group with more promise or potential; just try. Done? Ok.
Back to Harris. The wealth of quality depth around him will serve as an obstacle to obtaining a starting job, and in the end, Harris may never develop into a first-team player. He will at the very least compete for playing time at a deep position and offer an athletic and talented reserve option at a crucial position. The spreadification of the Big Ten demands a bigger emphasis on pass defense, and the Wildcats are addressing that issue in the 2013 class. Harris is a case in point.