When the Dallas Cowboys sign UDFAs, they often get players that most of us are unfamiliar with. Well, in the case of cornerback and return warrior Dustin Harris of Texas A&M, I was excited, because as an Aggie, I have seen his work. Nothing was more impressive than his mad punt return skills, showcased against South Carolina State (an admittedly inferior small school), when he set the SEC and school record with a staggering 246 return yards, including a 92 yard touchdown. And that school record he broke was his own, set when he had 176 yards against Kansas.
Coty Saxman has already put up a post including Harris, talking about the elite athleticism of some of the UDFAs, and you can see a highlight video of his work there.
But to get some better information, I reached out to James Gardner of Good Bull Hunting, the SBN site for A&M. (I would explain the reason for their site name, but it would take way too long. Aggies will get it.)
Here are the questions and James' answers.
Q. Dustin Harris really draws attention with his return skills. Could you describe his style of returning kicks for us?
I think the two words I'd use to describe Dustin's style would be confident and fearless. For better or worse, he sometimes does something dumb like field a punt at his own five yard line. And then he takes it to the house. He's very tough for his size and frame and is looking to score each time he's back to return.
Q. As a UDFA, he probably has the best shot of making the team as a return man, but how do you see his coverage skills in the NFL?
I think with the right coaching, Dustin could evolve into a nice nickle back on passing downs. I don't foresee him playing out on an island against top WRs. Harris was a better than average DB in the Big 12 and SEC, but not one of the elites. I know this question was centered on coverage abilities, but it should be noted that Harris is a very good tackler in open field.
Q. Jason Garrett puts a high value on character and work ethic, what we call RKG, for right kind of guy. What kind of player was Harris at practice and in the weight room? Any off field issues?
Harris was definitely one of the key leaders on a defense that had a lot to prove in the SEC. He has seemingly been a great mentor to the young DBs at A&M. The defense's legacy was very important to him which was reflected in his work ethic and selflessness. There are no character issues of note, which is nice. His coaches always praised Harris' work ethic.
Q. Is there any corner in the NFL that you would point to as a comparison for how Harris plays the position?
This is a tough one. I think Leodis McKelvin in Buffalo might be a good comparison with his production as a corner back (middling) to return capabilities (strong).
Q. What is your best guess for odds on Harris making the team or getting on the practice squad?
I know little of the Cowboys' depth in the defensive backfield heading into mini camps, but I think Harris has a 40% chance of making the team. I might be generous with that figure. I hope he takes advantage of the opportunity.
Q. Can you get me Johnny Football's autogra . . . no, wait, skip that.
After all the incessant fawning, fan boy crap we've spewed at Good Bull Hunting over Johnny, we're not allowed within 200 yards of him. It's probably for the best. Apologies.
Q. OK, I can't resist this. Not on point, but what is your bet on Johnny Manziel staying for his junior year, or coming out for the draft?
Unless the season is a total disaster for Manziel and/or the team, I expect him to come out for the draft. Selfishly, this will suck, but I won't fault him if he projects as a first rounder.
Thanks for having me, guys. Gig 'em!
I'm looking forward to see how Dustin works out. However, I will note to all and sundry: This post in no way has anything to do with felines, people keeping small mammals in their house, or any mouth parts of horned herbivores. I swear.