Wake Forest RB Harris making up for lost time
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) -- Josh Harris is ready to return as the go-to running back for Wake Forest.
He's put his injury-riddled 2011 season behind him and is focused on living up to the billing that he created as a freshman.
Had it not been for the hamstring injury that sidelined him down the stretch last season, Harris said Tuesday that he wouldn't be the player he is today.
He says he's working harder because "there are people out there who think that I'm not really tough" and he wants to prove that he's durable.
Harris made only five starts last season and gained 453 yards -- barely more than half of the 764 he gained as a freshman in 2010. That year he rolled up 241 yards against Virginia Tech's defense.
"He had a great freshman year and he was our guy," receiver Michael Campanaro said. "People kind of forgot about him, even myself. I think he's ready to break out. He looks like he's ready to go."
Now a redshirt junior, Harris said he's on a mission to make up for lost time.
"I feel there are some people outside Wake Forest who don't (trust my toughness), so I guess I have to prove it," Harris said.
Coach Jim Grobe said it's a matter of displaying dependability that Harris must show in order to reach his peak. There have been signs of that taking place.
"This is the first time I can remember that he has had good practices every day," Grobe said. "That's the first step."
Wake Forest fans hold the memory of Harris' 241-yard outing in 2010 at Virginia Tech as an indicator of his potential.
"I think everybody is expecting a big year out of him," junior quarterback Tanner Price said. "I think we're excited to see what he can do this year when he's healthy. I think everybody understands he has the ability to have a breakout year and now we want to see that happen."
With Harris sidelined following his 136-yard performance against Florida State, Grobe eventually decided in November to break Orville Reynolds' redshirt and play the freshman. That doesn't often happen under Grobe, who prefers to redshirt his newcomers.
Reynolds played in the last five games and became a candidate to start. That competition might have motivated Harris, who's a sturdy 212 pounds and encouraged to run strong between the tackles.
"I feel with either me playing or Orville playing, we'd have a shot," Harris said. "It's easy for me to sit here and say I'll be healthy. I'll try not to say too much."
Grobe said the performances of the running backs have been refreshing across the first week or so of preseason practice.
Harris said most importantly that his legs feel fresh and strong. That makes it time for this to be his year, he said.
"I surely hope it is," he said. "I just feel my legs are in the best shape."