First-year Miami coach Al Golden had heard the critics loud and clear. The value of quarterback Jacory Harris was already determined in the minds of many Miami fans –- as the backup to Stephen Morris -- before summer camp even began.
“I think there were a lot of naysayers out there with the notion that he wasn't going to change or improve,” Golden said. “And I don't think that's fair in college or with student-athletes.
“I think you've got to give them an opportunity to find the things that they do well and capitalize on them. From the beginning I was looking at his assets, his strengths, the number of games started, his football intelligence, maturity, his leadership. We coupled that with some good decision making, his ability to distribute the ball and obviously he's protecting the ball and getting us in the right place. So, very pleased with him so far.”
Miami fans should be, too.
Harris enters Saturday’s game against Georgia Tech ranked No. 8 in the country in passing efficiency. He has thrown 89 passes without an interception, a span of three straight games. As Harris has improved, so has the rest of the team, and the Hurricanes could keep their hopes of winning the Coastal Division alive on Saturday with a win against Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets, though, are looking to rebound from an upset loss to Virginia. Miami has won the past two games in this series and is the only ACC program to have defeated Paul Johnson’s Jackets in consecutive years. Harris is 33-of-43 with five touchdown passes in those games.
Part of Harris’ improvement can be attributed to the style and philosophy of first-year offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Jedd Fisch. Under his direction, Harris’ completion rate (67 percent), pass efficiency rating (170.77), yards per attempt (9.05) and longest pass (77 yards) this season are all career highs.
“Obviously Jedd's (Fisch) doing a great job,” Golden said. “[Harris is] trusting not only Jedd, but he's trusting his teammates, the guys around him and letting them do things with the ball.
“He got sacked a couple times the other day. He protected the ball very well. If he's going to get sacked, don't give up a sack/fumble. He threw it out of bounds other times and found his second receiver or his check down a bunch of times. He's doing a nice job. He's level-headed, consistent, and very mature and experienced. And he's playing the way we thought he would play.”
Still, don’t count out Georgia Tech just yet. The Jackets only have one conference loss, and historically, they rebound. Johnson is 3-0 in games following his first loss of the season at Georgia Tech, and winning those games by an average of 18 points.
“I feel like our guys are going to have a positive attitude,” Johnson said. “We’re disappointed that we lost, but the sky isn’t falling. The team is 6-1. Before you bury us let us play two more games. It seems like everyone wants to end the season and bury the team. Maybe they’re right, but let’s at least go play and see what happens.”