Harrison confident he can return from head injury
For Mark Harrison, there is no better time to return.
The junior wide receiver sat out two weeks ago against South Florida and played sparingly against Army because of lingering effects of a head injury suffered in practice.
Now he is back in time for the Rutgers football team’s battle for first place in the Big East with Cincinnati, the team he torched for 240 yards last season and four scores.
Head coach Greg Schiano said Monday he expects Harrison to be ready to play Saturday, and Harrison echoed the sentiment.
“I feel great,” he said. “I’m glad to be back out there on the field, running routes and catching balls from Chas and Nova. It feels great to be back.”
Harrison practiced sparingly leading up to last week’s game against Army, and ultimately it was a lack of practice — not his injury — that forced him into a limited role at Yankee Stadium.
He caught a 45-yard touchdown pass against West Virginia, but was relegated to the sideline in the immediate aftermath.
“It’s always frustrating when you want to do more but really can’t,” Harrison said. “You prepare all year round and only get 12 of them on the schedule. It was hard to watch, but I kept in my playbook, studied and worked on the things I knew I’d need to work on when I got back.”
Now Harrison prepares for a matchup he said has he and his teammates excited for their next game.
History is not on the Scarlet Knights’ side, as they lost each of their past five meetings with the Bearcats, but it is on Harrison’s after last year’s performance.
“Honestly, when I was out there I really didn’t think about how big it was,” he said. “I just played and took one play at a time.”
Schiano said redshirt freshman safety Rashad Knight could return Saturday after suffering a foot injury in training camp.
A four-star cornerback recruit out of Jacksonville, Fla., Knight committed to Rutgers instead of Michigan late in the recruiting process, but has yet to see the field for the Knights. Schiano said he could play special teams or in defensive subpackages, but he is most likely to debut on special teams.
“I don’t know if he’s ready yet, but he’s a good football player,” Schiano said. “You remember how excited I was about him. He’s an instinctual football player who will hit you.”
Only Bearcats running back Isaiah Pead matched Harrison’s dominant showing last season in Cincinnati, when he rushed for 213 yards and four touchdowns.
Pead carried the ball eight times for 47 yards and a touchdown as a sophomore in Piscataway, giving him a 6.67 yards-per-carry average against Rutgers.
He ranks third in the Big East in rushing yards, while Rutgers ranks last in run defense, although that is a product of facing two triple-option offense.
Still, Schiano is wary of facing Pead.
“I thought he was a good, young back when we first started playing him, but he’s a really good back now,” Schiano said. “He’s going to be a really good NFL player. He’s strong. He’s tough. He has good vision. He gets downhill. He knows when to go outside. He catches the ball well. He’s a complete player.”