It’s well known how Miami has managed to churn out top-notch running backs in the past 40 years, with a number Pro Canes finding stardom along the way. Since 2006, no school has had more snaps at the running back position than Miami, and by a wide margin (as in thousands). With the departure of Travis Homer after 2018 and DeeJay Dallas this year, both of whom landed in Seattle, the Pro Cane running back field got even better. Does Miami have another future member of that group on its roster in incumbent lead back Cam’Ron Harris?
Harris, who changed his name from Cam’Ron Davis during his time at UM, is another high-end prospect who chose to stay home and represent the U. He came to Miami out of Carol City High School, where he was ranked the country’s 7th-best running back by 247 and 6th-best by Rivals (was 81st on the Rivals 100 list). In his freshman season in 2018, he saw an expanded role after the Canes had fallen from divisional contention. He went for 48 yards on 6 carries highlighted by a 22-yard touchdown run in the 27-21 loss at Georgia Tech. The following week, Harris showed his versatility, going for 77 yards on 7 carries with a 42-yard touchdown run in a runaway win in Blacksburg. Harris showed his speed by splitting two defensive backs closing from either side on the way to a 42-yard touchdown. Later from the Hokies’ 16-yard line, he caught a swing pass, got past the linebacker to the sideline, and beat the safety to the corner on a play that, when you look at it, doesn’t seem like he could get to the corner, but he managed.
When I think about Harris’s skill set, I think of a physical, punishing runner who welcomes contact - both as a ball carrier and as a pass blocker - but the highlights above really show his burst. He’s not as shifty and elusive as other great backs before, but when he gets a head of steam, look out. Incoming freshman Jaylan Knighton and Don Chaney Jr. are getting a ton of love for their potential big play ability and rightly so, but I think people are sleeping on what Harris can bring to the table from the same perspective.
In 2019, Harris’s role expanded with the departure of Homer to the NFL. He received 10 or more carries in 6 games, with a career high 18 carries for 136 yards coming against Georgia Tech after DeeJay Dallas left early with a knee injury. He finished the season with 576 yards on 114 carries (5.1 ypc) and 5 rushing touchdowns, along with 16 catches for 114 yards and a touchdown.
Check the first few plays of the highlights. That’s what Cam Harris does. He would seem to prefer going through a player instead of going around him. He flattened the poor UF linebacker who tried to square up with him on a swing pass. He ran straight over the UNC safety like he was an F-150 going over a parking cone. That’s just who Cam Harris is as a player, and that’s what he does best. He leaves cleat marks on your jersey and, when you look back, he’s streaking down the field with defensive backs trying to force him out of bounds.
Harris will surely head into the 2020 season as the projected starter, especially with the extremely limited offseason and camp opportunities for the incoming freshman to get acclimated to the college game and Rhett Lashlee’s new offense. Of course, everyone will have to learn the playbook and learn to work together with a new quarterback and behind a revamped offensive line, so there will be tons of uncertainty as far as who fits in where, and who serves which role the best. As such, it’s really hard to project the X’s and O’s and how Harris’ exact role and snap count compared to the freshman likely will go. That said, he and Robert Burns are the only returning backs with experience, so Harris should be the de facto guy.
Looking at Rhett Lashlee’s offense last season, they ran the ball an average of 41.1 times against 38.6 pass attempts, so they ran the ball quite a bit despite the reputation for being such an aggressive offense, and for QB Shane Buechele having such a proficient year. They leaned on two running backs primarily, with Xavier Jones (244 carries, 1276 yards, 5.2 ypc, 23 rushing touchdowns (!!!)) and Ke’Mon Freeman (122/517/4.2/5) handling the vast majority of the work. So Lashlee relied pretty heavily on his lead back last season (at least that’s what the stats show).
In any event, I’m really excited to watch Harris play and to see how Knighton and Chaney Jr. contribute. Just to see how that running back room takes shape and who earns which role. That being said, with a player like Harris as physical and fast, it’s hard not to get excited about what could finally be a really big year for the rising junior, especially with a dynamic quarterback like D’Eriq King being the focal point for opposing defenses.
What do you all see from Harris this season? Go Canes!