August 18, 2011

Mark Stoops views Mike Harris as a starter

Mike Harris knows what the depth chart says.

So does defensive coordinator Mark Stoops.

Neither cares.

Despite being listed as the backup on the depth chart for Xavier Rhodes and Greg Reid, because of his impact for the Florida State defense he is viewed as a first-teamer.

"Mike's a starting corner," Stoops said of the senior during media day. "I really feel like all three of those guys have certain strengths and weaknesses, and Mike may be the most complete player at times in certain things. So I really don't view him as a back-up."

Harris, a junior college transfer from California El Camino C.C., appeared in all 14 games for FSU in 2010. Playing mostly in nickel packages only he recorded five pass deflections, forced two fumbles, and intercepted four passes.

Before fall camp last season, Harris was unable to participate for the first few days of camp as he waited on his transcript from El Camino. Head coach Jimbo Fisher said that missing that time put Harris being the eight ball, as he wasn't able to participate in practice or team meetings.

"We didn't have much meeting time with him before camp," Fisher said of last season. "He was worried about all that stuff. In camp even though he was here, he was having to do stuff behind the scenes to get his grades in and do all that stuff. But now that he's been here, we'll put him in a lot different situations."

Last season Harris excelled on the inside as nickel, but Stoops says he has the skill set to play on the outside as well.

"Mike is very versatile," Stoops said. "He's a great nickel, he's great outside, he's just very good football player."

This summer Harris worked on becoming an even better football player. Not only did he put time in the weight room, but he worked with Terrell Buckley in the film room.

"I think the mental part of it, working with T-Buck this summer," Harris said when asked where his game has improved the most. "Just getting more mental knowledge of the game and learning how to play different packages and certain formations certain ways. Just making our job a lot easier, so it's not as physical, it's a little more mental, so that's the biggest thing."

Through the first few weeks of practice Harris said he can already see the time he spent with Buckley pay off.

That's the last thing that FSU receiver Rodney Smith wanted to hear. The fellow Miami native said that Harris is already tough enough to go up against in practice as is.

"Everything," he said when asked what Harris does well. "He's fast, he can cover, man coverage, everything, he can do it."

For some players knowing that they could start on almost any other team in the country would make it tough to continue to give it your all as a backup. But that's not Mike Harris.

"Even though I come in as a back-up I still view myself as a starter also," he said. "It's going great, I think we've got a great rotation with me Greg, and Xavier at the cornerback position. We've just got a great combination with us three."

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