As we enter Mike London's fourth season at the helm of the Virginia program it's time to start ramping up expectations for players from his heralded recruiting classes. While the oldest kids in his first true recruiting class are only true juniors, thanks to Al Groh's impressively terrible management of recruiting towards the end of his tenure, they will be the backbone of the team this season. There are already the obvious stars on the field this season. Kevin Parks should have a great year running the ball. I expect Morgan Moses to have a good season on the left side. And Demetrious Nicholson should flourish in this new scheme. But those are players you already know. In this series of the Wahooze exclusive The View from 515 (that was for you John King) we're going to profile some players that you don't know as stars yet, but that we think are going to have a big season.
Meet Anthony Harris. A 6-foot-1, 185-pound hitting machine from Chesterfield, VA. Harris started at free safety for the Hoos in 2012 and recorded 87 tackles with one pick. IMPRESSED?! Well admittedly those are not eye popping stats, but 87 tackles was actually good for third on the team behind senior tackling machines Steve Greer and LaRoy Reynolds. However the one pick from a free safety was something that caused most Hoofans to groan (or attempt to break a plastic water bottle across a metal railing, looking at you Kendall). That stat most likely also cost Jim Reid his job. But why would the third leading tackler be considered a "breakout star" for 2013?
Enter John Tenuta, and more importantly his hyper-aggressive style. There are certain players that will benefit from the switch to the new scheme, but none may benefit more than Harris. I've long thought Phelps and Harris were playing the wrong positions at safety. Phelps, a damn good corner in high school, has the ball skills to be a ballhawk at free safety, but not necessarily the nose for hitting that that position required. That's why I was thrilled when John Tenuta announced that Phelps and Harris would be swapping spots, turning a confusing alignment into a potentially great one. (It also puts what is probably the most annoying message board debate to rest, as there is zero chance Rijo Walker can beat out either safety at their respective positions now.)
But back to Harris. This kid has always been one of my favorites, and will quickly become one of yours. Growing up, my favorite player was Sean Taylor, so I have an affinity for watching safeties lay people out. And while Harris will never have the complete game Taylor did, he will become a ferocious hitter at the point of attack this season. Harris will be spending a ton of time near or behind the line of scrimmage this season, and hopefully will see a massive spike in sacks, especially considering he had zero last season. That being said, it will be the bone-crushing hits he will get against running backs and receivers coming across the middle that will get him a special place in all our hearts this season. I'm very VERY bullish on the safeties this season given the new scheme, but I am at another level of optimism for Harris.
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