Solon junior Kendrick Harris By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
SOLON – Kendrick Harris never put much thought into what to do when he had a football in his hands.
For as long as he could remember, when he was handed a football Harris did what came natural to him – he ran.
The strategy worked well for Harris. Well enough to catch the attention of the Solon coaching staff and earn him a spot on the varsity as a sophomore last season.
Suddenly, in his first varsity season, all Harris could do when he had the football was think.
“I was thinking all the time, I didn’t know that much in my first year and I was thinking too much,” Harris said. “I wasn’t reacting, I was just thinking.”
Harris showed flashes of his natural running ability last season.
He rushed for 191 yards as a sophomore, including a then career-high 50 yards in a 17-14 upset of Washington in the opening round of the Class 3A playoffs.
In an attempt to think less on the field Harris spent the off season doing his thinking away from the field. He studied the Solon offense from all angles.
This season that work is showing up in his running.
Harris has rushed for a team-high 562 yards and seven touchdowns this season helping Solon to a 5-1 record and a No. 8 rating in Class 3A entering Friday’s home game with Mount Pleasant (3-3).
“I think part of being a good back is having an understanding of what is going on and where the hole is supposed to be but also having that ability to make the cut and set blocks up,” Solon coach Kevin Miller said. “Good backs have that ability to set up blocks and he understands that and he knows how to use his lineman I think better now than he ever has.”
After getting a small taste of the varsity level last season Harris has turned into a focal point of the Solon offense this fall.
Harris has eclipsed the 100-yard mark three times this season and is averaging better than 104 yards per game on the ground during the Spartans’ current four-game district winning streak.
“This year I just feel more natural,” Harris said. “I’m just reading things better and the seeing things slower and my lineman are doing a great job of blocking for me.”
Harris showed his growth in the season opener running for a career-high 111 yards in a win over Mount Vernon.
That career-high didn’t last long.
Harris exploded for 158 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Keokuk in week three and rumbled for 182 yards and three touchdowns on a career-high 24 carries in a 34-3 win over Oskaloosa.
“He will be the first to tell you it all starts up front and he just has a better comfort level with what those guys are doing up there,” Miller said. “I think he is doing a better job of reading his blocks and has an understanding schematic-wise as to how to read the hole and what is happening up there.”
Harris is also bigger and stronger than he was a year ago.
The 6-0, 185-pound junior has demonstrated that increased strength with a physical running style.
“He has great forward lean and when guys get their pads over their feet from a tacklers standpoint you don’t really want to stick your nose in there,” Miller said. “He runs hard, he really does.”
Harris isn’t a flashy running back but he’s shown the ability to make the big play.
He has raised his yards per carry average from 3.4 last year to 5.3 yards per attempt this season.
“I’m getting more comfortable and I’m getting more confident in my ability and how my linemen are going to block for me,” Harris said. “It’s preparation and just working at it and getting repetitions. I think we’ve gotten better each week.”