Alabama running back Damien Harris doesn’t just think about scoring a touchdown when breaking into the open field. He also has flashbacks of getting caught him from behind.
“There are times when in practice or in the heat of the moment during the run, you know, it goes through your mind what happened last year for me personally,” Harris said. “And you just want to eliminate that from happening again.”
A lighter, more explosive Harris has shown an extra gear to finish long runs in the end zone this season.
Harris, a junior, has a team-high seven rushing touchdowns, including two that have covered 60-plus yards. He had a career-long 75-yard run for a touchdown in Saturday’s 27-19 win at Texas A&M.
“The line did a great job of opening a big hole,” said Harris, who made a jump cut from the left, broke free and outran the A&M defense to the end zone untouched. “We knew their linebackers like to run side to side. We knew, as running backs, we had to press it one way and if we cut back behind it, we’d have a lot of success.”
Halfway to 1,000 yards on 58 carries this season, Harris took it to the house from 61 yards in Alabama’s 59-0 win at Vanderbilt. He had plenty of opportunities to do the same last season, but often came up short. Harris rushed for 1,037 on 146 carries last season, but only managed two rushing touchdowns. He had 11 rushes of 20 yards or more, but only finished one in the end zone.
A full list:
73 yards to the USC 6
67 yards to the Ole Miss 1
57 yards to the Arkansas 5
46 yards to the USC 15
32 yards to the Arkansas 43
30 yards to the Texas A&M 39
30 yards to the Texas A&M 15
25 yards (TD) vs. Chattanooga
23 yards to the Alabama 34
21 yards to the Florida 30
20 yards to the Auburn 37
Harris did have a 56-yard touchdown catch at Arkansas, but was tracked down for the most part on long gains. He’s done a better job of finishing long runs in the end zone this season.
This year’s list:
75 yards for TD at Texas A&M
61 yards for TD at Vanderbilt
46 yards to the Ole Miss 32
34 yards to the Florida State 41
27 yards to the Texas A&M 1
25 yards to the Vanderbilt 35
What’s different for Harris now?
“He’s a little lighter this year,” Alabama senior center Bradley Bozeman said. “He’s really working hard and trying to be the best that he can.”
Listed at 221 pounds, the 6-foot-1 Harris acknowledged a weight loss – after a weight gain.
“I lost some weight in the offseason, after I gained some,” Harris said.
Harris said he worked on his speed in the offseason, but keeping the memories of being caught in his mental Rolodex has led to him having that extra gear to beat the defense to the end zone on long runs.
(You can follow Duane Rankin on Twitter @DuaneRankin)
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