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One of the biggest surprises of the 2004 recruiting class this summer has been former Little Rock (Ark.) Mills and Hargrave Military Academy lineman Marcus Harrison, and he is already fighting for playing time.
Harrison was rated the No. 29 defensive tackle in the country and the No. 4 player in Arkansas by Rivals.com as a high school senior at Mills. He then signed with Arkansas but had to attend one year of prep school at Hargrave, which is in Chatham (Va.).
Harrison became the 'forgotten man.' With a bevy of talented defensive linemen coming in for the 2004 class, several fans assumed Harrison would be a natural fit at guard. After all, Hargrave coaches decided he was a better fit at guard.
"When I went to prep school, they decided to play me at guard because I could play both positions," Harrison said. "Then, when I got here, I think they had a little wrestling match to see which side I was going to play, but I always wanted to play defense from jump; that's why I signed to come here. I didn't ever think I'd be a defensive end, but I guess running out here, working out I the summer, running sprints and stuff and getting better - I mean, I played it in my 11th grade year - so I guess it developed here on the field, because coach Rock sees something in me."
After a brief stint at tackle, Harrison showed the speed, quickness, ability to contain, spin moves and swim moves needed to be a success at defensive end, and defensive line coach Tracy Rocker soon moved him over to the left side. At 6-foot-3, 300 pounds, Harrison can be an imposing presence for tackles, backs, pulling guards and tight ends - not to mention quarterbacks. Harrison has made it into the offensive backfield several times during full-scale scrimmages.
"I know we're being coached by the greatest coach I think I have ever had. We're young but we're coming with it," Harrison said. "Big brothers; they're our big brothers. They teach us everything. They tell us what we're doing wrong. If we pick it up, they pat us on the back when we're doing right. They get on to us like a big brother would. I'm glad I have them. Jeb, A.D., Titus and the rest of the seniors, I'm just glad we've got them."
Harrison said his journey to prep school helped him become a better football player and a more responsible student and young man. It also gave him a chance to improve his strength and knowledge of the game without burning a year of college.
"It was a gut-check and an eye-opener to let me see where I was at - let me know that I wasn't everything because of the competition up there. I did pretty good - pretty well - but it just let me know that I needed to take care of my priorities and get that straight," he said.
Expect to see Harrison on the field this season if he continues his strong play.
To further discuss Harrison's play and to find out which other newcomers may or may not redshirt, visit The 'A' Club