NFL Draft Preview: USC DT DaJohn Harris


October 29, 2011; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Stanford Cardinal quarterback Andrew Luck (12) runs the ball against the defense of Southern California Trojans defensive tackle DaJohn Harris (98) during the overtime period half at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

Name: DaJohn HarrisHeight: 6″3′Weight: 306Projection: Middle Rounds

So far, we’ve previewed Nick Perry of the Trojans that are hoping to have their dreams realized in the 2012 NFL Draft. Next up is fellow defensive lineman, DaJohn “Juice” Harris.

Harris came to USC with a ton of honors and accolades from high school, but his first two years at USC weren’t anything to write home about. He redshirted his freshman year in 2007, and only briefly appeared in six games in 2008 as a reserve defensive tackle/tight end before missing the final four games to focus on academics.

After that though, the gears started turning in his favor.

In the 2009 season, he saw a lot more action as a backup DT. He appeared in nine games and recorded 14 tackles, two of which were for losses, and half a sack. 2010 was probably his best year production-wise, as he started every game except against Virginia. He ended the season with 35 tackles with 5.5 for losses, 3.5 sacks, one interception, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and one deflection. Harris was one of the few defensive players that consistently performed well under the first year of the Lane Kiffin era, and his stats definitely show that.

This past season Harris saw a slight downturn in productions, having only 22 total tackles (14 solo and 7 for losses), 1.5 sacks, and he broke up six passes. After completing his redshirt senior season, Harris elected to enter to draft.

Harris had a minor scare at the beginning of his training though, as during a routine physical, doctors discovered a small hole in his heart. Knowing the kind of implications a hole in your heart can mean for athletes, this was kind of a huge deal at the time. As a result, Harris did go to Indianapolis for the NFL combine, but he did not participate in any workouts, so scouts didn’t get the chance to really see what he could do. Harris did however get the chance to participate in USC’s Pro Day in March, where he also revealed that his heart condition is indeed a minor one called PFO, or patent foramen ovale. The condition is a small hole in the heart that originates in the early stages of human development that assists with blood flow. Upon birth this hole naturally closes in most cases, but in about 25-percent of humans, it never fully does. However, it is not treated as anything significant.

For his sake, let’s hope that this condition does not impede his success.

Harris has demonstrated he knows how to use his large, solid frame to his advantage, and that he is capable of getting off rather quickly. His natural size/speed combo makes agile on his feet, gives him the leverage he needs to take on multiple blockers, and allows him to split defenders and swim through pockets. He has shown to be very aware of the plays developing around him, and can fluidly change direction if need be. He has also proven that he can get his hands up in passing lanes and break up plays, with a number of deflections on his resume.

But there are still a number of things he should improve on if he wants to increase his value for a team. For starters, Harris has very often relied on his natural talents to get him where he is, and experts say he doesn’t really play fundamentally and his technique is so-so. Experts also say that he needs to learn to play more disciplined, and to control his emotions, as he often will disappear for stretches during a game. He was hurt a lot during this past season, so his durability and level of conditioning are questionable. ranks him 22 at his position and 295th overall, so look for Harris to be selected in the middle rounds of the draft.