Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Things are finally looking up for Wake Forest running back Kevin Harris.
After a career marred by a sprained MCL, a concussion and a broken wrist over the span of the 2006 and 2007 seasons, the longtime running back couldn't quite hang onto the ball the way he needed to and was relegated to fullback. Third-string fullback.
For 11 games last season, Harris was a relative unknown in the Deacs' offense. After a breakout performance against Navy in the EagleBank Bowl last year, though, he quickly made a name for himself and got an instant promotion this spring. Lining up in the I-formation, Harris gained 136 yards on 24 carries -- both career highs in only the third start of his career. Needless to say, the Deacs are expecting more of the same in 2009.
"We knew he could run the ball," quarterback Riley Skinner said. "He put on a little bit of weight when they moved him to fullback, he had a couple of injures and he had to go back down to running back weight. It was pretty cool how he dealt with it. He pretty much said, 'Yes, sir,' and did what the coaches asked. We were really happy to see him excel in that bowl game and he ran his heart out. ... It just makes that competition that much harder in that running back room."
Harris has some company in Brandon Pendergrass and Josh Adams, both of whom saw significant playing time last year -- a little too much time against Miami. Determined to run the football, Wake Forest ran it 52 times and threw it eight in a 16-10 loss to the Canes. This year, expect to see a little more variety -- two backs, one back, and Skinner lining up in the shotgun and under center.
"I think we got to the point towards the end of the season we decided we were going to go a little bit more out of the I and try to get downhill on people," Harris said. "Josh and Brandon both ran the ball a lot in the Miami game. I think they both came out a little banged up.
"They gave me an opportunity at the end of the Vanderbilt game. By that time we really got the blocking down, towards the end of the season our running game was really coming around and I benefited from being in there."
Considering all five starters return to the offensive line, there should be better protection up front. With Harris' health and improvement, there is also better depth at running back.
"I'm comfortable knowing we've got three guys who can do it, so if one of us gets tired you can come out and get a breather," Harris said. "I'm not too nervous. I'm just going to go out there and try my best. Hopefully things will work out. It really depends on the offensive line. They're all back. I have high expectations for our offense. A lot of the same guys have been there the last couple of years. We're hoping to do better than we've ever done. We're hoping to go out with a bang."