Overlooked to emerging No. 1 feature back? Kevin Harris is doing it all for Gamecocks
He was not one of the elite recruits South Carolina has landed in recent years. But on Saturday against Florida, there were few more effective Gamecocks than the bruising No. 20.
Kevin Harris reached 100 yards rushing and added a touchdown catch in an all-around game that would fit the résumé of any feature back. The bowling-ball style Harris runs with makes it difficult for defenders to square him up and bring him down. Harris is listed at 5-10 and 225 pounds, but that seems a bit on the light side.
Last year, he missed most of the season because of a groin injury that required surgery. He finished with 21 carries for 179 yards and 4 touchdowns in 6 games. However, he was largely 4th on the depth chart behind Tavien Feaster, Rico Dowdle and Mon Denson.
The 3-star prospect out of Hinesville, Georgia, has flashed before, such as last year against Charleston Southern, and in the 2019 Garnet and Black spring game.
Ranked by recruiting services as the No. 68 player in his home state of Georgia in the 2019 class, he looked nothing like that against the Gators. On Saturday, he delivered 22 carries for 100 yards and a touchdown with a long of 11 yards where he bulled into a Florida defender.
Harris also made 3 catches for 27 yards and the TD on a swing pass over the middle as he was the 2nd-leading Gamecock receiver by yards. His teammates noticed, too. Add it all up and Harris accounted for 127 of the Gamecocks’ 329 total yards
“Kevin was running really hard and was catching the ball out of the backfield,” QB Collin Hill said after the game. “He played his tail off. I thought it was something to build off of.”
Added Harris, “I was just trying to win the game today, so do what I have to do to win.”
Harris was the first South Carolina running back to run for at least 100 yards against the Gators in Gainesville since Marcus Lattimore ran for 212 yards and 3 touchdowns on 40 carries in 2010 to help the Gamecocks win the SEC East.
Harris has been somewhat of a revelation and there is no mistaking his importance to this offense. With MarShawn Lloyd out for the season with an ACL injury, the Gamecocks needed someone to step up at that position.
In the season-opener, Harris also had 13 carries against Tennessee for 55 yards and a TD.
“With Kevin, there’s not a lot of softness to hit,” Muschamp said on his Sunday evening media teleconference, per SportsTalkSC. “Kevin has a great stature about him for a running back, and when he’s running at you, he’s a very physical player. He runs through contact. You’re not going to butt him down. You’re not going to arm tackle this guy. He’s going to run through contact and that’s what you saw on Saturday. He ran through contact extremely well. He’s got great effort.”
Harris’ development as a running back shows that he understands the playbook and the offensive line, and perhaps most importantly, who he is as a runner.
“He’s got great understanding in the run game, and I think he’s got really good patience in the run game on some of the pull plays, the power plays, the down around scheme that we run,” Muschamp said. “I think he does a good job of buying time for his blockers and then he instincts north and south. He understands who he is. He’s a north and south runner who’s going to run through contact and a guy that you get tired of hitting in the third and fourth quarter.”
Muschamp said he’s not sure if having a No. 1 running back is essential.
“We just need production and I thought we had good production in our first two games from those guys,” Muschamp said.