LB Mike Harris to Maryland: How It Happened, What It Means

Maryland capped off signing day by landing one of its final three commitments after Mike Harris opted to stay with Maryland. Andrew Harris, meanwhile, stuck close to his heart and signed with UCF. So what does it mean and how does his recruitment play out? We break it all down in a wild ride.

How it happened…Maryland played the long, loooong game on this one. The Florida duo emerged as realistic targets for the staff back in the spring thanks largely to outside linebacker coach James Thomas’ deep ties down in Florida. Maryland chipped away and after bringing them in for an official visit in June, Maryland became an immediate threat to Michigan State–then the perceived team to beat. UCF was able to draw a visit and thanks to the relationship with Travis Williams, the in-state school won out over the summer. Even still, Maryland never gave up and were in contact with the Harris camp a mere days after their verbal commitment. Their names continued to float around as quiet flip targets in late summer heading into the season, at one point drawing a possibility of a flip. Even with so many local targets still in flux, head coach Mike Locksley made the trip down to Lake Brantley (FL) to watch the duo in action during Maryland’s bye week as the Terps felt they had a realistic chance of securing the flip. That confidence continued all the way into December when head coach Mike Locksley joined Thomas for an in-home visit, days ahead of Robinson’s departure from UCF to Arkansas. Confidence remained in College Park heading into the early signing period with a need for linebackers this cycle, but the family wasn’t able to come to a consensus with the Terps seemingly on the cusp of a flip. Still, Maryland had the support of mom and Mike for nearly the last two months of this recruitment as the situation largely remained the same heading into February.

The possibility of the duo splitting up came to light last week with the staff down in Florida, but it didn’t become a bigger reality until the last roughly 24 hours as the two brothers struggled to come to a consensus. Ultimately, both stuck with their initial gut feeling in December with Mike headed to Maryland and Andrew to UCF as they were content splitting up. Maryland was comfortable with the scenario of only one headed to College Park, and that’s what came to light during Wednesday afternoon’s ceremony. Mike will enroll in June with the remainder of the 2023 class.

What it means…Mike Harris is a bit lighter than his brother, has more of a safety body type, but has similar traits & abilities. Really good verified speed (11.1 100M – 20.83mph max speed). On film, he moves a bit better in space & does a better job when tasked with dropping back into coverage than Andrew. Quick twitch athlete who can disrupt plays in the backfield in the blink of an eye. Tries to be an extremely physical tackler, but has some trouble from time to time playing too fast and finishing tackles. His senior film was very impressive and continued his strong season in the All-American game.

How does he fit into the defense? The Harris Brothers are extremely twitchy & explosive athletes. Mike doesn’t have the size and strength at this point in time to be a three-down backer, but his athletic ability will help get him on the field early in some capacity. He projects as WILL ILB, where he can play off the ball and use his speed to disrupt plays & chase down ball carriers. A comp that comes to mind is former LSU/current Ravens LB Patrick Queen. Both lack the ideal size, but have plus athletic ability for the position & can cover ground very well. Like Queen, I think Mike Harris could maximize their abilities by playing alongside a physical MIKE LB in Jaishawn Barham or Caleb Wheatland.

-Jake Hallett

What’s next…Maryland’s inside linebacker room remains in great shape heading into the 2023 season. Inside linebacker coach Lance Thompson inherits a strong room led by Jaishawn Barham, Ruben Hyppolite, Fa’Najae Gotay and Caleb Wheatland while adding Daniel Wingate and now Mike Harris. Maryland’s outside linebacker room is in a good spot with Neeo Avery giving Locksley a clutch flip signee back in December, but after missing on Harbor, the status of four-star athlete Rico Walker remains even more critical. Walker joined the program and has been preparing to fill in on the offensive side of the ball for spring ball, but the upside on the defensive side of the ball looms large. Still, Locksley loves his big-bodied athletic tight ends and the North Carolina native fits the bill. Maryland will have space to work with to potentially find someone on the edge, though cornerback could take priority as they scour the market when the portal opens next in May. In the 2024 cycle, Maryland will look to take a pair of inside linebackers and there’s no doubt that Mountain View (VA) four-star LB Kris Jones and Good Counsel (MD) four-star Aaron Chiles sit atop the board as the staff has been working on the duo for months. Maryland is in the top group for both and was able to impress Jones and his extended family over the weekend, marking his third visit to campus. Chiles, meanwhile, is expected to return to campus as outside linebacker coach James Thomas chips away in his recruitment. Maryland has made Good Counsel a big priority in the 2024 cycle with both sides of the ball littered with Power Five talent.

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