Does Alabama have a legit shot at Damien Harris?
Damien Harris might be the best prep running back in the country. He might also be the most tight-lipped prospect in the country. The 5-11, 205-pound star from Berea-Madison Southern Academy, KY rarely does interviews.
What we do know is that when Harris announces at his school on January 9, he’s expected to pick Alabama or Kentucky. Given that he lives just 45 minutes from the UK campus, the Wildcats are thought to be the favorite.
Does the Tide have a legitimate shot?
“I don’t get involved in saying anything about how he feels,” MSA head coach Jon Clark says , “but I know that he’s very interested Alabama. I do know that.
“From what I can tell, yeah, he’s highly considering Alabama.”
Clark thinks Harris is a rare talent with the ability to make a major impact at any school.
“He’s got a unique combination of size and speed,” Clark says. “His ability to run through tackles and his vision are probably his two most unique things. People bounce off of him. He’s very powerful with his speed and his size. His vision to see things you can’t even see sometimes on film. He finds things with his vision that’s very unique.
“Not many guys at 205-210 pounds, once they get to the third level, have the speed to separate. He definitely has that kind of speed.”
Due to an injury, Harris only played in seven games this past season. He ran for 1,576 yards and 23 touchdowns.
“He averaged almost 15 yards a carry this year and averaged 12 for his career,” Clark says. “He averaged a touchdown every 3.6 carries in his high school career. That’s unbelievable over a four-year career.”
Clark says that, in some games, Harris actually scored touchdowns too quickly.
“It impacted our play-calling,” Clark says. “We realized we were winning a lot of close, high scoring games because we weren’t running enough plays and our defense was on the field too much. He had a lot games where he’d have a carry and a touchdown, a carry and a touchdown, a carry and a touchdown. So we’ve scored on our last three offensive plays, but our defense was on the field for 15 minutes, too. So we actually minimized his carries to keep our defense a little more rested.
“I know that sounds like a strange thing to do, but that’s the way it happened.”

Bama making a move on Wheatley
One of Alabama’s top priorities for the 2015 class is to find a big, strong, physical, athletic tight end. Such tight ends are very hard to find. So hard that the Tide staff has traveled nearly a thousand miles from Tuscaloosa to pursue Buffalo-Canisius, New York star Tyrone Wheatley, Jr.
Wheatley’s father is a former star running back at Michigan and in the NFL and is the current running backs coach for the Buffalo Bills.
With dominating performances on both sides of the ball this fall, Wheatley lead his team to an undefeated record and a state championship. At tight end, he provided strong blocking and had two touchdown receptions. At defensive end, he had 68 tackles and 10 sacks.
“TJ is a heck of a player,” says Canisius head coach Rich Robbins. “He’s every bit of 6-6, 260 pounds. He moves well for his size. He’s a good route runner. A real dominant blocker in the run game and can catch passes when you need him to. At defensive end, he’s dominant. He takes away half of the field on the high school level. With his length, his size and his get off, he’s a handful.”
Alabama has missed out on a few other top tight end targets in this year’s class. But the Tide appears to be in excellent position with Wheatley.
“He’s down to about five schools and Alabama is right at the top of that short list,” Robbins says. “It’s Alabama, Oregon, the two Los Angeles schools, USC and UCLA, and Michigan. Those would be his five.
“He’s going to take all of his official visits. He’s going down to Alabama in January. After he takes the visits, that will give him some clarity and allow him to start making some decisions.”
Robbins praises the Alabama staff for its straight-forward, no-non-sense approach to recruiting Wheatley.
“The coaches have done a great job,” Robbins says. “TJ has liked the way Alabama’s staff has handled everything. There’s some schools that come in offering the world. Alabama was a pretty quick visit. They come in and, you know, ‘We’re the best program in the country. We’ve got the best coaches. We’ve got the best facilities. We win national championships and we put guys in the NFL draft. Give us a call if you’re interested.'”
“Alabama doesn’t have to beg anybody. They just let TJ know what they’re all about and that they’re looking forward to having him down on campus to visit, showing him the facilities, letting him talk to the guys (players) and the coaches.
“I think TJ kind of respected and enjoyed that kind of approach, because it was very simple and very clear. There were no big promises. They were more or less saying, ‘If you want an opportunity to compete at the best program in the country, give us a call.'”
“I think Alabama right now might be one of his top two,” Robbins says. “TJ is pretty savvy. His dad played in the league and coached in college and has recruited kids and he’s now coaching in the NFL, so they’re pretty savvy about this. And if you’re looking at any school in the country four years down the road, you can almost be pretty sure that Coach Saban will be the head coach, and as a recruit you don’t want to go somewhere there’s musical chairs every off-season. TJ is excited about playing for the same coach every year and Alabama is one of the few opportunities where he could do that. So, yeah, he’s very excited about Alabama and he’s looking forward to getting down there for a visit.”
Wheatley isn’t expected to make a decision until late in the process.
“I know his plan is to get on campus at these schools and meet coaches and meet players, you know, touch it, feel it, smell it, meet people, see everything,” Robbins says. “Then when he gets done with the visits, he’ll have a much more clear idea of where he wants to be. So I don’t think he’ll do anything until end of January or maybe signing day.”

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