Written by Dave Dulberg, USC blog contributor
At 6'4", 310 pounds it's hard to believe redshirt senior defensive tackle DaJohn Harris (photo below by John McGillen) went unnoticed during his first three seasons at USC.
After his standout performance (two tackles for a loss, one pass deflection and six tackles) in the Trojans' 19-17 victory last Saturday against Minnesota, Harris' time behind the curtain looks to be a thing of the past.
"DaJohn has been a guy who has shown NFL talent and NFL athleticism this past year," coach Lane Kiffin said this week regarding Harris' potential to play on Sundays. "Now he just has to be consistent overall and continue doing the things that has made him successful."
Consistency has always been an area of concern when it comes to Harris' tenure at Troy. After starring as both a tight end and defensive lineman at Serra High - the same high school current teammates Robert Woods, Marqise Lee and George Farmer attended - Harris initially struggled with conditioning and the speed of the game at the collegiate level.
After redshirting his freshman season in 2007, Harris was used sparingly in 2008 and 2009. While Harris was disappointed about his lack of playing time, he never let his standing on the team cripple his confidence.
"I would define my career as a struggle thus far," said Harris. "
I just had tremendous faith and I think the biggest thing I have always added since coming here is being a presence for the line. T
hey say no pain no gain and my patience has paid off now.
In 2010, that run-stopping presence caught the eye of associate head coach Monte Kiffin and defensive coordinator Ed Orgeron, who both instantly saw the crafty Harris to be a diamond in the rough. Harris started every game but one last season (35 tackles, 3.5 sacks and one interception), but his individual performance was largely overlooked because of the unit's season-long struggles. Knowing he would have one final chance to cement his imprint on the program, Harris worked tirelessly this offseason.
"From last season to this season, I think I have improved tremendously," said Harris. "You can see it from my effort to my technique to my pass rush. I hope Trojan fans just see me out there making plays and being a contributor to this defense."
If Saturday's statement game is any indication, Harris (photo by Jon SooHoo) will likely be making a lot of plays for the USC defense in his final season. But if his road from anonymity has taught him anything, it's that humility goes a long way.
"My confidence level is the same as it was last week, because I don't think you can get too big-headed after one game," said Harris. "Every week you have to go out there and try to do the same thing. I don't worry about [draft talk], right now I just want to win every game and let everything else happen as it comes."