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Harris looks to crack NIU's running back rotation

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014 7:22 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014 10:50 p.m. CDT
(Danielle Guerra -
Northern Illinois University's Keith Harris, Jr. prepares to catch a pass during a drill at practice on Monday, August 4, 2014 at Huskie Stadium.

DeKALB – Northern Illinois running backs coach Kelton Copeland calls Keith Harris Jr. a “true tailback.”

“He is a slasher to the T. He is a guy that you can hand the ball off to 20-25 times a game no problem,” Copeland said after the Huskies’ practice Tuesday. “He’s that type of guy that between the tackles, he goes from point A to point B in a hurry. And he’s also a guy that can go outside the tackles on the perimeter. He’s very versatile in his run-game style, and also he has good hands and he can catch the ball out of the backfield.”

Harris probably won’t see 20-25 touches per game this season with the depth NIU has in its backfield. Still, Harris’ performance at last week’s scrimmage was definitely a good sign for the Huskies. He had some big runs, including two touchdowns, one of which went for about 75 yards.

It was the first time Harris had played in a real contact event since last season, when he injured his ankle against Kent State in October. He had surgery and missed spring practice, and even dealt with a hamstring injury during fall camp.

“It felt real great to be back in the mix.” Harris said. “Coming back from the hamstring injury, you just want to get back out there as quick as you can and as fast as you can and as fast as you can, and as safely as you can. It’s always good to be able to help the team.”

Harris played well during the five games he saw action in last season, running for 143 yards on 21 carries for an average of 6.8 yards.

Copeland said getting back into game action was big for Harris’ confidence after missing so much time. Part of the confidence is just taking hits.

“It’s not something that I can coach, it’s not something that the strength staff can manufacture or the training staff can manufacture,” Copeland said. “It’s just

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