Different system, different QB for Miami

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Few people in the program know Miami quarterback Jacory Harris better than his cousin, receiver Tommy Streeter.

So I asked Streeter this summer for his take on why Harris has struggled so much the past two seasons.

“Sometimes I wonder how comfortable he was under the last system, coach (Mark) Whipple,” Streeter said. “I don’t know how comfortable he was. It’s very important for you to have that relationship with your players and guys to buy into your coaching strategy and what you’re saying as a leader. I feel like this staff we have now is doing a wonderful job of that, getting guys to buy in and everybody being on the same page. They’re having fun. Football shouldn’t be stressful.”

Those within the program have noticed a remarkable difference in Harris this past summer, and part of it could be simply a matter of switching to first-year offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch’s philosophy, which is designed to make Harris comfortable and take advantage of the players surrounding him.

“The offensive system that we’re built around here is a completion passing game, a high-completion passing game,” Fisch said. “What we’ve asked Jacory to do is get the ball in the playmakers’ hands, not have to be the playmaker. One of the things we’re going to ask him to do this season, is it’s not necessarily important to get a 25-yard gain by throwing the ball over 25 yards. You can get the ball on a five-yard completion and we think we can get a run and catch for that same 25 yards.

“We’re trying to make our explosive passes with a high completion percentage and know when to take the shot and not force the shot,” Fisch said. “We’ve emphasized to Jacory that a check-down is fine. A check-down to Lamar Miller could be just as good as throwing to a lot of wide receivers in the country. We’re just trying to continue to preach to him that completions are the most important thing, not trying to make that explosive play. That will come with understanding the system, understanding the coverage.”

Harris said he has a much better understanding of the offense and is able to dissect a defense in a matter of seconds. Nobody within the program spoke a bad word about Whipple, but Harris showed a greater appreciation for the opportunity he’s been given in the current system.

“Whip trusted me a lot and I trusted him in his playcalling a lot,” Harris said. “He’s a great coach. He’s very aggressive. He likes to go at it. If he feels our talent outmatches their talent, we’re going to run past them every play. And that’s his philosophy. That’s how he is. You can’t take nothing away from him, but now in this offense, it’s scheming. We see that we’ve got a matchup like with Streeter, we’re not just going to run right past him, we’ll do a simple hitch or something, just to get the ball in Streeter’s hands and let him make a play instead of me trying to make a great throw and him trying to make a great catch. Just do something easy. That’s how this offense is, just dink and dunk, drive down the field and knock time off the clock and score touchdowns. I love it.”

So does Streeter.

“It’s unbelievable how smart he is,” he said of Harris. “A lot of times, he sees things before they even take place. He knows the coverages they’re going to roll, or this guy is going to do that. He’s so sound in what they’re going to do it’s scary to me.”

There was one play during a practice this summer where Harris gave Streeter an adjustment route at the line of scrimmage before the defense even lined up and hit him for a touchdown.

“How does this guy know this stuff?” asked Streeter. “As a receiver as you’re in your stance, you’re looking at the coverage, looking at guys on their toes, how they’re playing, are they playing you with their feet flat, or where are their eyes playing? It’s just amazing how he can survey the whole field while taking on a blitz and things like that.”

Miami fans will have their doubts about Harris until he proves otherwise on the field. But for those within the program, they’ve already been convinced.