Miami cornerback Brandon Harris led the ACC and ranked second nationally with 1.31 passes defended per game last year. He tied for second nationally with 15 pass breakups and was third in passes defended (17). He's a well-spoken player who should be a leader on the Canes' defense this fall.
Here are the highlights of our recent conversation:
Expectations are obviously pretty high for you guys, what’s everyone within the program talking about in terms of what you guys are capable of this year?
Brandon Harris: Expectations are always high when you’re at the University of Miami, but this year coach Shannon is really focusing in on taking that next step in the college football world. For the past couple of years a lot of people have been talking about the potential we have here, and how Miami can be great. We actually think everything is in the right place this season to really take that next step and win the ACC title and be in BCS contention.
What kinds of things in particular are you seeing -- either tangible or not -- that gives you the confidence to say ‘We can take it to the next level.’
BH: Just the loyalty each and every one of my teammates has for each other on this team. Everybody has one common goal, and that’s to win it all. Everybody is on the same page with that aspect, and everyone wants to win and is willing to do whatever it takes. That really shows how great we can be. We’ve had the talent here for a while, we’ve just been inconsistent at times. We’re focusing on taking one game at a time and not getting ahead of ourselves when we have big games coming up, just focusing on one game at a time.
What did you guys learn from last year? You started off so hot and then faltered down the stretch. What happened and what did you guys learn from it?
BH: That’s exactly what we learned -- in college football when you have a very tough schedule and are playing against some great teams, when you win those games, you can’t relent after those games. You have to step it up even more of a notch because next week, the next game becomes even that more important. When you’re playing teams like Ohio State and Pittsburgh, you train to win those games, but after you win them, you have to keep on fighting, not relaxing.
So when the schedule came out and you saw it for the first time, were you like, ‘bring it!’ or, ‘uh-oh.’
BH: I was always like, ‘bring it.’ You want to play the best teams out there. It’s an honor for us to put together a schedule a lot of other teams might shy away from. But the University of Miami has never been a program to shy away from playing anybody. We want to play the best talent out there. We don’t mind. Wherever we have to go to play them. We’ll travel to away games. We just want to win ball games and hopefully get ourselves back on the national stage.
How much are you guys as players talking about that road trip to Ohio State? I know the fans can’t stop talking about it.
BH: I know the fans can’t stop talking about it at all. We mention it here and there, but really right now we’re just focusing on training this summer, getting our depth better. We’re not too much focusing on Ohio State at the moment. We know that’s going to be a big game and eventually the time for that preparation will come. But right now, we’re just focusing on each and every one of us getting ourselves better and taking our game to the next level.
What’s your analysis right now of the defense as a whole, where you guys are.
BH: The defense looks strong. We have great depth at every position, a great group of leaders lined up and ready to roll this season. Everybody is comfortable with coach Lovett’s defensive scheme this year. We have a very fast defense. We have great speed on the d-line, linebackers and in the secondary. Everybody is so excited to get the season started. You almost can’t wait.
I know. As a guy who’s been there for a while, how important do you think it is that you guys do finally have some stability at the coordinator positions? How much can that help you guys?
BH: It’s very important. That gives the defense a good amount of time to really study the scheme and understand it when they get out on the field. When you have guys who aren’t sure what’s going on, that leads to breakdowns in the defense. But when everybody is on the same page, understands the defense, you see real fast defenses flying around. The stability of a coordinator really helps that.
Obviously your name is getting thrown around for some preseason awards. How high are your expectations for yourself? What are you hoping to do this year?
BH: I’m very honored to be considered for a lot of the awards. I have very high expectations of myself, but at the same time I’m trying not to put too much pressure on myself. As a team I want to win an ACC championship and a national title. I also just want to help my defense be the best secondary in the country. I want to lead the nation in interceptions and I feel if we do that, the individual accolades will fall in the middle.