Texas Longhorns: John Harris

Before Texas begins its first season under Charlie Strong, we're taking a deep dive into all the talent he inherits in 2014. Our Burnt Orange Breakdown series will take a closer look at each scholarship player returning this fall and what we can expect from them. We're going down the roster from No. 1 Shiro Davis all the way to No. 99 Desmond Jackson.

No. 9 John Harris
Senior wide receiver


Recruiting rewind: The three-star prospect from Garland (Texas) Naaman Forest was commit No. 2 for the Longhorns' 2010 class, choosing UT over Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Arkansas and Arizona. Harris didn't put up huge receiving numbers in high school, but that's mainly because he played quarterback as a senior. Texas inked a touted five-man receiver class that year, but so far only Mike Davis has panned out.

Career so far: Harris has a few highlights to put on his reel -- the Hail Mary at Iowa State, Texas' first score of 2013, throwing a TD pass against Rice in his first career game -- but that's about it. He missed the final 10 games of his redshirt freshman season with a foot injury and has played sparingly ever since. Harris has been a special teams contributor throughout but, offensively, has been targeted just 16 times for nine catches, 190 yards and three scores in his Longhorns career. Texas started calling him a tight end a year ago, but we haven't really seen the 6-foot-3, 225-pounder play much from that spot.

Best-case scenario for 2014: A senior-year revival. There was a time, in the offseason leading up to 2012, when Harris seemed capable of stepping up and taking a starting spot. But the coaching staff wasn't sold, and Harris hasn't had an easy time finding the field consistently. Yet we've seen him make big plays -- a big target who has flashed good wheels. If Les Koenning sees something in Harris that his previous coaches did not, he could be a surprise contributor among Texas' returning receivers.

Worst-case scenario for 2014: Another season spent relegated to special teams work with the occasional opportunity to catch a few passes. Basically, more of the same. Harris caught a 22-yard score from third-team quarterback Trey Holtz to end the spring game, and no doubt he'd like to work his way up and see more reps with the No. 1 offense. But as we've pointed out over and over, Texas will have around a dozen capable scholarship receivers to choose from in 2014. Harris will stay on the sideline if he can't beat out a bunch of them.

Future expectations: Harris is probably going to need a huge senior season if he hopes to chase NFL aspirations next year. He's one of the many players who should recognize that the fresh start provided by Texas' coaching change means a chance to step forward. Texas has some very talented, polished receivers ahead of him on the depth chart. Can he make a big impression in fall camp and re-emerge as a difference-maker?
Editor's note: This is the first part of a weeklong series breaking down Texas’ most important spring position battles when the Longhorns begin practice in two weeks.

Moving on: Texas is losing, statistically, one of the best wide receivers in its program’s history in Mike Davis. He leaves Austin ranking No. 4 in the Longhorn record books in both career receptions and receiving yards, and fifth in receiving TDs. And imagine what he could have done had Texas enjoyed a little more stability at the quarterback position during his four years. He started 38 games and brought the deep threat needed to stretch Big 12 defenses.

The contenders: We know what Texas has in reliable longtime starter Jaxon Shipley. No reason to worry about him. And you could argue that Kendall Sanders and Marcus Johnson aren’t really competing with each other for snaps. They seem like logical choices to be the No. 2 and No. 3 guys in this unit, at least on paper.

Among those vying with Shipley, Sanders and Johnson to prove they should see the field in 2014: John Harris, Jacorey Warrick, Montrel Meander, Jake Oliver, Armanti Foreman, Lorenzo Joe, Dorian Leonard, Roderick Bernard and Garrett Gray.

And don’t forget Daje Johnson, the versatile weapon who focused on receiver in 2013, and the injured Bryant Jackson, who will miss spring practice. Even if a few of these wideouts leave for playing time elsewhere, it’s going to be a crowded receiver room this fall.

Moving forward: What makes this a battle is the stunning number of young backups who will compete for playing time this fall. There’s plenty of time for this number to change, and it will, but Texas could have as many as 14 scholarship receivers on the roster this fall.

Several of the incoming freshmen will redshirt, that much seems certain, but who knows what the Longhorns can expect from the rest. That’s the upside of signing so many wideouts with different skill sets. Throw them all onto a practice field, see which ones improve and stand out, and play the best of the best. That’s a luxury new receivers coach Les Koenning gets this fall.

Prediction: Many will point to Foreman and Joe as immediate contributors, and they’ll get a shot. But the trio of second-year receivers -- Warrick, Meander and Oliver -- will catch folks by surprise and find meaningful roles.

What’ll be fascinating to watch this spring is how the new staff puts Daje Johnson to use, and whether he can get his act together after two suspensions last season. If he does, he’s got a chance to become a nationally known and feared playmaker.

Big 12 games of the year: No. 6

January, 22, 2014
Jan 22
1:00
PM ET
We’ve been counting down the 10 best games of the year in the Big 12. Here's No. 6, a true nail-biter that nobody saw coming.


No. 6: Oct. 3 -- Texas 31, Iowa State 30

In a Thursday night game neither team will soon forget, Texas came oh-so-close to fumbling away a loss in Ames but escaped with a one-point victory over Iowa State that was far closer than the score suggests.

What happened: A game with twists and turns -- from a Hail Mary before halftime to a 97-yard pass and a whole bunch in between -- came down to one goal-line battle and one controversial play.

On first-and-goal at the 3, Johnathan Gray ran up the middle and, at some point, lost the football. Iowa State linebacker Jeremiah George scooped it up and ran off, believing he’d secured victory. Instead, game officials called Gray down at the 2, reviewed the play from five camera angles and determined no undisputable evidence of a fumble could be found.

Texas kept possession and scored two plays later on a Case McCoy dive to go ahead 31-30. Jackson Jeffcoat sealed the win with a last-second interception and the Longhorns improved to 3-2 by the slimmest of margins.

McCoy needed a career-high 45 pass attempts -- and a good bit of luck -- to pull off this win. Just as things were starting to look bleak, he lobbed a 44-yard touchdown pass to John Harris with time expiring in the second quarter, giving Texas a 17-13 lead.

The teams traded a few scores from there, highlighted by Quenton Bundrage’s 97-yard touchdown in the third quarter, and ISU led by 6 with 3:40 left. Texas answered with a 12-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a game-winning score and a very unhappy Paul Rhoads.

Player of the game: Lots of possible choices, including a few Cyclones, but Gray had an important performance. He started the day off with a 45-yard touchdown run but was fairly underused from there, finishing with 89 rushing yards on 16 carries. He did chip in two key runs on the final drive before the controversy began.

Stat of the game: With the win, Texas improved to 10-1 against Iowa State.

Quotable: “I've got the privilege as the head coach of this football program to face my players, win or lose, and look them in the eye and [tell them] how proud I am of the work they put forth, the effort they gave. And to make a play on the 1-yard line, with their backs against the wall -- clear to everybody -- and have it taken away from them … that's hard to express. You don't just put an arm around a guy and tell him it's OK when that happens to him. I'm so proud of the effort my kids gave to win this football game tonight." -- Rhoads, during his postgame comments

Quotable, part II: "I've got pretty good eyesight. The view I had of that gigantic screen in the north end zone showed a player that was not down and our guy with the football." -- Rhoads

The rest of the list:

McCoy's road comeback résumé growing

November, 12, 2013
11/12/13
10:00
AM ET
AUSTIN, Texas -- Call it magic, or moxie, or luck, or whatever you want. Case McCoy likes a good comeback.

"I think sometimes he just likes to live close to the edge," Texas lineman Mason Walters said.

Following his trip to West Virginia last weekend, the senior quarterback's résumé now includes four comeback road victories. Texas has found some serious fortune when McCoy is facing a fourth-quarter deficit and a whole lot of pressure. He doesn't have an easy explanation for why this keeps working out for him and his Longhorns.

"I don't know what the formula is to any of that," McCoy said Monday.

He doesn't get away with it all the time (see: the 2011 Missouri loss). But these Longhorns have a strange knack for surviving close road games late when McCoy is behind center. Here's a review of the four comebacks he has pulled off in the last three years.

No. 25 Texas 27, Texas A&M 25
Nov. 24, 2011 | Kyle Field | College Station, Texas

[+] EnlargeCase McCoy
Tim Larson/Icon SMIThere's something about a late-game deficit on the road that brings out the best in Case McCoy.
The deficit: Texas trailed 25-24 after Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill hit Jeff Fuller with a 16-yard touchdown pass with 1:48 left. The Aggies' two-point conversion failed.
The comeback: McCoy led the Longhorns on a seven-play, 48-yard drive, and Justin Tucker became a Texas legend with his 40-yard field goal with time expiring to beat A&M in the final game of their century-old rivalry.
McCoy magic: With 46 seconds left, McCoy dropped back to pass, then scrambled right and up the middle. He shed one tackle and bounced off another before gaining 25 yards, putting Texas in position for Tucker's game-winner.
Final line: 16 of 27, 110 passing yards; 7 rushes, 25 yards, 33.6 QBR
Quotable: "I told him: 'Here's where you become the guy, and here's where you take us down and win the game. Every quarterback has to have a signature moment and this is going to be yours.' " -- Texas coach Mack Brown

No. 23 Texas 21, Kansas 17
Oct. 27, 2012 | Memorial Stadium | Lawrence, Kan.

The deficit: Texas trailed 14-7 with 13:04 left when McCoy entered the game to replace an ineffective David Ash, who threw two interceptions. After going ahead 7-0 early, Texas' offense had produced five punts, two turnovers and one turnover on downs.
The comeback: McCoy led two touchdown drives in the game's final 10 minutes and connected with tight end D.J. Grant for a 1-yard touchdown with 12 seconds left to escape a near-disastrous game with a victory and improve to 6-2.
McCoy magic: After nearly throwing a game-sealing interception on his first attempt of the final drive, McCoy found Jaxon Shipley for an 18-yard gain on a fourth down, hit Mike Davis for a 39-yard gain one play later, then got the game-winner to Grant after Johnathan Gray was stopped twice at the goal line.
Final line: 5 of 7, 68 passing yards, 1 TD, 99.7 QBR
Quotable: "It wasn't anything I did. I think our coaches and our team just decided to dig down deep and decide to fight. We definitely came out slow and sluggish, and that's something we can't do the rest of this year. We got lucky, and we were able to come out of here with a win." -- McCoy

Texas 31, Iowa State 30
Oct. 3, 2013 | Jack Trice Stadium | Ames, Iowa

The deficit: Iowa State rallied with 10 points in the fourth quarter and extended its lead to 30-24 on a field goal with 3:40 left in the game.
The comeback: Texas marched 75 yards in 12 plays, with the help of 38 yards off Iowa State penalties, to score with 51 seconds remaining. Of course, all anyone will remember from this drive are Gray's two controversial near-fumbles at the goal line.
McCoy magic: After Gray's two short-yardage failures, McCoy pushed in for a 1-yard touchdown run on third-and-goal to put Texas ahead for good. More memorably, he found John Harris on a 44-yard Hail Mary to take a lead into halftime.
Final line: 26 of 45, 244 passing yards, 1 TD, 66.4 QBR
Quotable: "This will be a real positive for us moving forward. I'm really excited. I think I love comeback wins on the road more than anything in football." -- Brown

Texas 47, West Virginia 40, OT
Nov. 9, 2013 | Milan Puskar Stadium | Morgantown, W.Va.

The deficit: Texas trailed 26-16 midway through the third quarter, scored two touchdowns, gave up the lead, retook it and lost it again. The Longhorns were down 40-37 with 2:35 left in regulation.
The comeback: The Longhorns went 57 yards in 12 plays and forced overtime with a 24-yard field goal from Anthony Fera, then found the end zone in six plays in overtime and got a four-play goal-line stand from its defense for the win.
McCoy magic: The 10-yard touchdown to Jaxon Shipley to put Texas up 37-33. The 9-yard completion to Shipley on fourth-and-7 in the final drive of regulation. The 14-yard pass to Marcus Johnson on third-and-4 in overtime. The third-and-goal pass to Alex De La Torre that he missed against Oklahoma. He had a few big moments.
Final line: 27 of 49, 283 passing yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT, 71.9 QBR
Quotable: "Never been more proud of my team, my offense and my defense. We didn't do everything right by any means, but we came into a hostile environment and got a win." -- McCoy
AUSTIN, Texas -- Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley aren’t practicing, and that just might be a good thing.

As strange as it sounds, Texas’ top two wide receivers spending the first week of fall camp sidelined ended up proving beneficial for the Longhorns offense. Their absence created opportunity for a receivers group full of unproven talent.

Davis had surgery for a hernia and Shipley underwent a procedure to address a hip injury. Neither ailment is serious, and both wideouts were in pads and catching passes by the end of the week.

[+] EnlargeKendall Sanders
AP Photo/Eric GaySophomore Kendall Sanders has gotten extended time with the first team with injuries to Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley.
Their absence is more precautionary than anything, and at some point in the next two weeks they’ll get back into team drills and 11-on-11 work.

But the point is this: Neither truly needed the practice reps. Their younger backups most definitely did.

“With Mike and Jaxon being limited early, that’s going to force the guys to be out there with David [Ash] and see how they can do with pressure on them,” Texas coach Mack Brown said before camp began.

How’d they fare? Sophomores Kendall Sanders and Marcus Johnson slid into the spots held down by Davis and Shipley last week. They combined for two receptions in 2012. One of them will likely have to start this fall.

That guy might not be Johnson, who suffered a sprained MCL in his right knee during practice Monday. There's no timetable for his return, but UT head athletic trainer Kenny Boyd is hoping Johnson will be back "before the end of camp or soon after."

That’s not necessarily a damning blow for the Texas receiving corps, but Johnson made a good impression during his week with the first-team offense.

“I think Marcus has been making huge strides from where he was in the spring,” Ash said. “I'm really excited just because with the nature of the offense and what we're doing now, he will have to be a big part of it. He’s got to make plays for us and understand that when some of our primary receivers are covered or doubled, he's going to be the guy that gets the ball.”

There’s no doubt Sanders is ready for a larger role after recording two catches for 15 yards in 11 games as a true freshman. The 6-foot, 187-pound wideout is as well-rounded a target as the Longhorns have when Davis and Shipley aren’t on the field and appears to be the favorite to become Texas’ No. 3 receiver.

But they weren’t the only beneficiaries at receiver last week. Take the top two guys out of the equation and everyone gets bumped up the totem poll, including the newcomers.

“It’s really helped us to be forced to look at the freshmen,” Brown said. “Jacorey Warrick has done some good things, and it’s been fun to watch him. All of those young ones have shown ability, but we probably wouldn’t have got them many snaps if Jaxon and Mike were out there.”

That Warrick is earning early praise is impressive considering his rapid recovery, as he missed most of his senior season at Houston Cypress Falls after suffering a torn meniscus in his right knee in October.

The former ESPN 150 recruit looks as speedy as ever and hasn’t lost a step since that injury. He and freshman Montrel Meander worked with the No. 2 offense last week while Jake Oliver and Chevoski Collins started off with the third-string receivers.

Those four fresh faces will continue to be evaluated in the next two weeks, and several could see the field on Aug. 31 against New Mexico State. But what would that mean for Bryant Jackson and John Harris?

Both are fourth-year players seeking to finally break through and establish their roles. Harris has experimented at tight end but spent the week as one of Case McCoy’s favorite targets as an outside receiver. Jackson moved over from defensive back and played in the slot with Daje Johnson and the No. 1 offense.

“The guys brag on Bryant Jackson a lot,” Brown said. “He’s an older guy who’s been around, a blocker and special teams guy that’s making some good plays for us.”

With those freshmen on the rise, it’s practically now or never for those juniors. They benefitted from Davis and Shipley sitting as much as anyone.

And yet, you could make a case no Longhorn is affected more than Ash. The starting quarterback didn’t mind one bit, as he enjoyed working on his rapport with a variety of receivers.

“There is a silver lining to it,” Ash said. “Obviously, we want Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley out there getting work, but there is a silver lining that we are going to develop some depth with these young wideouts. They’re going to get some experience now and there’s no doubt it’ll pay off, because you never know what’s going to happen in the season.”

If either of Ash’ top two targets go down at some point this fall, that will likely mean trouble. But a full week of preparing for that possibility can’t hurt.

Four Downs: Texas collecting receivers 

June, 18, 2013
6/18/13
1:30
PM ET
AUSTIN, Texas -- Each week, I look at a few topics around the Texas Longhorns and college football.

First down: Few O-linemen in 2014 class

Every Friday, HornsNation's Sean Adams will answer questions from readers. Send him a question on Twitter here.

@Zachrab88 on Twitter: Who on offense [will] turn out to be All-Big 12?

A: Be patient with me because this could take a while and you might even roll your eyes a couple of times. Texas could load up the All-Big 12 team on offense. Texas could have All-Big 12 players at every position on the offense except for tight end, where the numbers won’t merit the selection.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

During the summer, HornsNation will analyze each of the scholarship players on the Texas roster -- excluding the Longhorns' 2013 recruiting class -- in our Burnt Orange Breakdown series. Starting with No. 1 Mike Davis, we will go through the roster numerically, finishing with No. 99 Desmond Jackson.

No. 9 John Harris
Junior wide receiver



To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Texas spring takeaways: Winners 

April, 11, 2013
4/11/13
8:00
AM ET
AUSTIN, Texas -- Maybe the score didn’t matter in the Orange-White scrimmage but don’t be fooled -- everybody was keeping score.

Play was critiqued. Judgments were made. Assumptions, both good and bad, were confirmed. And undoubtedly there were players who fell to both sides of the ledger: Some excelled and some didn’t. Hey, spring football is a wheat-from-the-chaff thing.

So it is along those lines that the time has come to look at those whose stock rose during the spring and those whose stock, while maybe didn’t fall, at the least stayed stagnant. And in the spirit of giving good news first, here are three players who are on the rise in the Texas program (On Friday, we'll list the losers):


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

AUSTIN, Texas – Mack Brown isn’t quite sure what to do with Duke Thomas. Not just yet anyway.

"We will just have to look at it and probably play him both ways in the fall," the Texas coach said.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Four downs: QB Swoopes is the future 

April, 3, 2013
4/03/13
8:00
AM ET
AUSTIN, Texas -- Each week Sean Adams looks at a few topics around the Texas Longhorns and college football.

First down: Is Swoopes the future?

By reading between the lines about the repetitions in Saturday's Orange-White scrimmage, it appears that freshman quarterback Tyrone Swoopes will have a package to fit around his unique skill set and size this season. But could he already be Texas' No. 2 signal-caller?

[+] EnlargeTyrone Swoopes
AP Photo/Eric GayFreshman quarterback Tyrone Swoopes had fans talking after his performance in Texas' spring game.
If starter David Ash were to go down and miss time in the first game of the season, it's likely that Case McCoy would take over the role. But even that would likely only be until Swoopes' schooling could be accelerated to get him ready to play.

Swoopes is the future. I am still in the small group of people who believes a redshirt would be best for him, but that might not be an option when the Texas coaches look forward to 2014. Swoopes has already passed Connor Brewer and Jalen Overstreet, and it appears McCoy is just exhausting his eligibility as a backup.

That leaves Swoopes as the primary backup in 2014 and as the man his junior year for the Longhorns, assuming he doesn't redshirt this season. If the spring of 2013 is any indication, the future will be sooner rather than later for Swoopes.

Second down: DE Okafor taking some hits ...

Texas went through pro day last week and defensive end Alex Okafor has taken some hits. His strength, speed, explosiveness and even tactical awareness have been questioned.

I just don’t buy that. He is a football player. I have never been in the camp that he is going to be great, but I am in the camp that he can have a lengthy career in the NFL.

All things considered, that would be a really good career. It must be pretty hard for an All-American to get his career torn apart for a couple of months. I honestly hope he is not paying attention to the media at this point.

Third down: On the move ...

I will be the first to say it did not do a whole lot for me to hear that Duke Thomas might play both ways, but after watching him the spring game, I’m a believer. He caught the ball in traffic, ran fairly good routes and looked to have pretty solid ball skills.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Texas 10: Spring game rankings 

April, 1, 2013
4/01/13
1:00
PM ET
Each week during the season, HornsNation will rank Texas' top 10 performers of the season up to this point. Here's a ranking of the top contributors from the Orange-White spring game on Saturday.

1. QB David Ash: The junior quarterback didn’t exactly unfurl a cape and fly to new heights in the spring game. But, aside from two huge miscues, Ash proved he is capable of running the up-tempo offense and appears to understand what play-caller Major Applewhite wants.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas has one of the most experienced teams in the Big 12 coming back for the 2013 season. It has finished the first half of spring practice, went on spring break and now will settle back in to finish the spring as strong as possible.

In order for the Longhorns to realize and capitalize on their potential, there are some players that will have to step up for rest of spring practice. Here are five Longhorns who need to have a huge spring:


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Four downs: Defense in the details 

March, 6, 2013
3/06/13
12:00
PM ET
AUSTIN, Texas -- Each week Sean Adams looks at a few topics around the Texas Longhorns and college football.

First down: Winning is in the details ...


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

AUSTIN, Texas -- Geoff Swaim was knocked down because he stood up.

Twice.

"This isn’t junior college," Texas coach Mack Brown said.

[+] EnlargeM.J. McFarland
AP Photo/Michael ThomasTexas' M.J. McFarland has improved as a blocker but needs to show more consistency.
Nope, to steal a line from Dan Hawkins -- sans the hysterical screaming voice -- it's Division I football. And Swaim, a junior college transfer working in his first spring practice with the Longhorns, found that out from the seat of his pants during practice Friday.

Texas found out on Saturday that Swaim had learned his lesson as he stayed low in his blocks and, surprisingly enough, on his feet. Consider it a learning curve successfully traveled.

Now all Texas has to do is learn how to most effectively use Swaim and the rest of the tight ends.

"We’ve got to figure out with what we are doing now and not substituting what Greg [Daniels] and Geoff Swaim can do as compared to [Miles] Onyegbule, John Harris and [M.J.] McFarland," Brown said.

(Read full post)

SPONSORED HEADLINES

The Experts: Horns Eye Recruiting Rebound
ESPN's Kevin Carter, Matt Millen and Brett McMurphy join national recruiting director Tom Luginbill to discuss the importance of the upcoming seasons for Texas' recruiting efforts, especially with in-state recruits.
VIDEO PLAYLIST video