Harris will attend Fork Union Military Academy for a year to improve his academics before attempting to enroll again in college, a long-rumored decision that was finalized in the last week.
"He's got a really good test score, but he didn't have a great semester in the classroom, so he came up a little short," said Hokies running backs coach Shane Beamer, who was Harris' primary recruiter.
Back in March I was giddy when 6-foot-1-inch Harris said he was "small" at 210 and wanted to play at 220. A big bodied back with a patient running style might be able to win the starting job in August. At the very least he'd push the competition. Of course that was assuming his knee is 100%, which by all accounts it is, but you never know. Even though I mentally projected him as a key contributer this fall, I'm not freaking out that he won't be here.
- Michael Holmes - As a consistent runner with a top-gear, Holmes won the spring competition at tailback in a knockout. He earned regular praise from the Frankinator. He doesn't have any on the field experience, but he had the benefit of a redshirt to practice with the team and soak up playbook (including its pass protection schemes).
- Commitment to the run - When's the last time Virginia Tech had a bad running game? The last four seasons Tech combined talented running backs, productive offensive lines, quarterbacks who could carry the ball, and run-focussed play calling to rank 35th or better nationally in yards per game. Tech's production in '06 and '07 was paltry (133 ypg 82nd, 113 ypg 90th), but the Hokies still ran the ball 60% of the time. Those two seasons seem to be outliers. Even with a talented tailback (Branden Ore), the other pieces weren't there, especially along the offensive line, and production across the board suffered. From 2001-2005 the Hokies were among the best rushing teams in the country ranked: 26th, 19th, 17th, 32nd, and 29th nationally. My point is this. This year's offensive line might be inexperienced, but they are talented. Logan Thomas is going to gain yards on the ground. Frank Beamer is going to run the ball. The supporting cast and system is in place for whichever running back carries the ball.
- Talent - The cupboard isn't bare. In fact, it's loaded with three- and four-star recruits who all feature different skill sets. From bruisers to speedsters and everything in between Holmes, J.C. Coleman, Trey Edmunds, Chris Mangus, Martin Scales, and Tony Gregory are all capable. It wouldn't surprise me if the Frankinator took a running back by committee approach, at least until someone establishes them self in a game as the best of the bunch. That's worked for Beamer many times before, so I'm at ease with it.
Looking past 2012, Harris will have to re-sign a national letter of intent, which means other schools can recruit and potentially sign him. You might remember Robert Lockhart who burned the Hokies by signing with Miami after committing to Tech before his prep year. That rarely happens to the Hokies who have a good record of re-signing players who commit/sign then prep.
In Lockhart's case he had family close to Miami and better grades meant a better chance to enroll there. On the other hand, Harris had a bevy of major BCS offers to choose from (Arkansas, Georgia, Pitt, Penn State, WVU, among others), and in the end picked Tech.
"It was the relationship I have with the coaches, and how comfortable I felt when I went down there," said Harris. "(Beamer) was excited. I've been feeling it a while. It's genuinely how much they want me to go there. And the conversations they had with my dad and things like that."
What appealed to him about Virginia Tech?
"Michael Vick went here," he said. "Just the overall feeling you get, everything."
Maybe he falls in love with another school, but I'm not betting on it.