Rutgers receiver attempts to carry over success from baseball to football
While the Rutgers football team was getting acclimated to a brand new coaching staff and offensive system during intense spring practices, wide receiver Jawuan Harris was in a much more relaxed setting over at Bainton Field.
After redshirting his first football season on the Banks, Harris not only suited up for the Rutgers baseball team in the spring, he put together a strong debut campaign on the diamond.
The Pembroke Pines, Florida, native comfortably led the Big Ten in steals with 37, a mark which was also good for fifth in the nation. At the dish, Harris posted a .278 batting average and an on-base percentage of .365 en route to being named to the All-Big Ten Freshman Team.
But even after enjoying so much success, Harris had no plans of dropping his multi-sport athlete status to solely pursue baseball.
“I knew I wanted to do both,” Harris said when asked if he had any thoughts of dropping football in favor of baseball. “So I already had my mind planned to go right back into football.”
Despite missing out on participating in practices during spring camp, including the Scarlet-White game in late April, Harris entered training camp right in the thick of the competition on the outside. He was pegged on the two-deep training camp depth chart, backing up senior Andre Patton in one of the three receiver spots.
Through the first week of camp, Harris said he felt completely caught up to the rest of the offense and pointed to studying the playbook during baseball season and being with the team for the entirety of the summer workouts as reasons why he had been able to smoothly transition from the diamond to the gridiron.
“I was there the full summer so I felt like I caught up quite fast,” Harris said. “(Strength and conditioning) coach (Kenny) Parker, he caught me up physically and I was able to learn the plays and do seven-on-seven during the back half.”
Of the six wide-outs on the Scarlet Knights’ depth chart, Harris is the lone non-upperclassman of the group.
Janarion Grant is expected to be the main weapon of the Knights’ passing attack, as evident by his 11-catch, 140-yard performance in the spring game. Behind Grant would conceivably be Andre Patton, who is coming off a season where he made 10 starts and hauled in 34 catches for 432 yards.
Beyond Grant and Patton are three other senior receivers (Vance Matthews, Carlton Agudosi and John Tsimis) who have logged considerable game action, but don’t have as much production over the course of their careers.
With the implementation of the hurry-up, spread offense, the receivers as a group should expect to receive more looks because of the increase in plays ran and amount of rotating at that position Rutgers hopes to do.
The Knights could be rotating in more than five receivers during a game, which means younger wide outs like Harris have the opportunity to fill out the depth of the position if he is unable to crack the top three or four on the depth chart.
“He’s been injured for the last week. I think we plan on having him back tomorrow. So we’ll see where he’s at,” said wide receivers coach Jafar Williams on Harris’ progression August 23. “Still has a lot to learn. Very raw, but does have talent. He is going to help us in multiple aspects this year.”
Multi-sport athletes are a rarity at the collegiate level, especially in Division I power conferences like the Big Ten. For the athletes that do double up in sports, it’s even more rare for them to get playing time and excel at both of them.
Even if Jawuan Harris doesn’t play a substantial role on the outside for Rutgers in 2016, he is expected to at least see the field for the Knights on special teams.
That in itself is an impressive feat for a redshirt freshman coming off an All-Big Ten Freshman performance in baseball.
“We’ll see where he’s at when he comes back and if he’s able to retain the information. But I do see him playing,” Williams said. “Definitely on special teams and hopefully we’ll see what his role (on offense) is as we move forward.”