At this point it’s a learning season for the Syracuse Orange. The theoretical advantage for SU is that they can play around a little and try different things in order to find out what might work given the talent that they have at their disposal. That’s been pertinent on the defensive side of the ball given the youth located at linebacker and at safety.
That doesn’t exclude coaches learning a couple of things about veteran players that could be useful next season. This point is important because Syracuse’s player of the game against NC State may have shown the Orange coaching staff the ideal way to utilize his unique skill set next season. Hopefully, with a healthy quarterback and an improved offensive line, this player can vault himself further into the Orange record books.
Harris lined up in the slot for the majority of the game, and that paid off in spades for Syracuse throughout the NC State game. He ran in and crossing routes throughout the entire game, meaning that Rex Culpepper’s accuracy issues were somewhat nullified. With most passes not requiring more than five yards of air travel on most routes, the passes made to Harris were generally some of Culpepper’s better of the day.
What then became obvious as it once did is that Harris is terrifying when he has some initial space to work with. He showed tremendous ability to break away from a defender and turn upfield to move the chains. Harris also showcased some impressive tackle-breaking abilities to fight for extra yards. According to PFF, 68 of Harris’s 146 receiving yards were recorded after the catch. That equates to an average of 5.2 yards after the catch per reception.
We’ve been waiting for Harris to have a big, breakout game like that for the entire year, and it goes to show that the Syracuse coaching staff have probably been using the junior in the wrong position. He was initially slotted as the Orange’s No. 1 primary outside receiver, but putting him into the slot and drawing up routes to get him space worked wonders.
Perhaps that’s the position we see Harris in for next season. He proved that he can still be Syracuse’s first option at wide receiver in the slot, and he might have the dynamic season we’ve seen from other Dino Babers wide receivers in the past.
Honorable mentions: Marlowe Wax, Mikel Jones
Now it’s your turn. Who was Syracuse’s player of the game vs. NC State? Sound off in the comments below.