South Carolina freshman tailback Kevin Harris didn’t even have to don pads before making a first impression on his teammates.
They just saw him walk into the weight room and got a sense of what his game was about.
“Strong,” sophomore corner Jaycee Horn said. “Since he came in, before he got on the field. We call him Jerome Bettis, the big bus. His legs are big. You look at him, his arms are big. In camp, he’s been running the ball real hard.”
Bettis, the No. 7-leading rusher in NFL history, is a pretty lofty comparison, but if nothing else, his powerful style was distinct.
Horn said he realized as far back as seeing the videos the social media team put together of Harris. As a starter, he’s been able to mostly not go head-to-head with Harris, but per a video circulating on social media, some teammates haven’t been so lucky.
Harris came in listed at 5-foot-10, 235 pounds, a tank of a back. Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp said there had been some questions about his speed, but when he came to camp, he alleviated that for the staff.
Then he piled up 1,556 yards and 22 touchdowns as a high school senior, the sixth-best total in Georgia (he had 1,680 as a junior).
The spring has opened up a few snaps for him as projected starter Rico Dowdle is limited by an undisclosed injury and A.J. Turner is working on defense. Mon Denson is the only veteran in that group right now, leaving Harris to battle with Lavonte Valentine and Deshaun Fenwick for work.
“Kevin Harris ... is a guy that we’re real excited about,” Muschamp said on an appearance on the Chuck Oliver show. “Runs hard, runs tough, young player but certainly we think has got a big upside.”
Gamecocks running backs coach Thomas Brown said his goal is to have a top pair of backs who handle most of the workload, and he has a trio of veterans back with Turner, Dowdle and Denson.
But while all three have shown flashes, none have grabbed the job by the reins across the past two seasons. So there might be an opening for Harris before 2020, when all three veterans depart.
On the field, he’s making some waves with big impacts on defenders. Off the field, it’s a different story.
“A real laid back guy, chill, cool,” Horn said. “Gets along well with everybody.”