Hinds has big plans for Harris

Published 8:32 am Wednesday, September 7, 2016

By Ernest Bowker

The Vicksburg Post


Hinds Community College’s coaching staff has big plans for DeMichael Harris.

They want to use the former St. Aloysius star in the passing game. They want to give it to him on handoffs. They want to put him back deep as a kick returner and let him make plays.

When you land the fastest high school athlete in Mississippi, it’s what you do, and head coach Gene Murphy made no secret of the fact he wants to use one of his prized recruits in as many different ways as possible this season.

“I characterize him as a playmaker. Our challenge is to get the ball in his hands in three different capacities — as a receiver, as well as a running back and also a return specialist,” Murphy said. “We really like his work ethic. From the moment we were able to get him signed and get him here this summer, we were very pleasantly pleased with the way he’s approached every day.”

The multi-faceted role is nothing new for the freshman Harris, who returned kicks while also playing running back and defensive back at St. Al. Some parts of his expanded role, however, he’s having to learn on the fly.

In his last two seasons at St. Al, Harris only caught seven passes. Most of those were on routes out of the backfield. Hinds, however, is moving him around the formation to create mismatches. Harris made history during the 2016 track season by becoming the first Mississippi high school athlete to run the 200 meters in under 21 seconds. He also ran the 100 in 10.5 seconds. With that speed, he’s a nightmare for safeties and linebackers to cover.

His biggest challenge, he said, is learning how to run pass routes from a wide receiver position.

“It’s been a big transition. It really wasn’t that tough. I just had to understand some of the concepts and some of the routes,” Harris said. “Our great receivers coach, Omar Conner, did a good job of play calling and our coaches set the receivers up for good routes. At running back, I did that in high school. It was kind of like second nature.”

Harris, much like the rest of his Hinds teammates, had a rough debut. He carried the ball six times for 16 yards, caught two passes for 38 yards, and gained 98 yards on five kickoff and two punt returns in a 40-17 loss to defending NJCAA national champion Northwest Mississippi.

Hinds will host Itawamba Community College this Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in Raymond.

Harris will likely get more than the eight offensive touches he got in the first game as the season progresses, but said he’s happy to help however he can.

“Coach hasn’t really set a number of touches. I just want to help the team get to where we want to get to, which is a bowl game in December,” Harris said. “I want to have a big impact on our team, just like everybody else does. I plan to do good on the opportunities coach gives me when I do touch the ball, and be a more positive player than a negative player.”

Murphy seemed to have no doubt that would be the case. At the team’s media day last week, he talked about Harris as one of the best players in an outstanding Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges league, and believes Harris has the potential he has to become even more than that.

“I had the privilege of coaching his uncle, so I know a little bit about his family. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. But I did tell his uncle that his legacy is over, because DeMichael is going to take over and make everybody forget about him,” Murphy said. “I’m excited about him. I think he’ll be one of the top freshmen in the league this year, overall as an athlete. Not necessarily in one position.”


Thursday, 6:30 p.m.

Online: The game will be streamed live at hindsccsports.com

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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