If there is one member of the next University of Miami football recruiting class considered a must-get, have-to-have, no question "we need this guy," most experts would agree it would be Northwestern quarterback Jacory Harris.
The 6-3, 172-pound signal-caller for the nation's No. 1 high school football team is one of six current Bulls committed to the Canes. As captain and leader, he has tremendous pull with many of his teammates. Well, after taking a trip to Oregon with receiver Tommy Streeter last weekend, I caught up with Harris moments ago -- the first reporter to do so since they returned (CHECK OUT THE AUDIO) -- when I visited Northwestern's practice and spoke to Harris and several players. What did Jacory say? Something Canes fans DO NOT want to hear. Harris said he loved his trip to the Oregon so much, he is now strongly considering the Ducks. In fact, he's sent both Oregon and Miami applications for enrollment in January.
"The trip to Oregon was wonderful," Harris said. "They came out here yesterday and talked to me, [Coach Mike Bellotti] asked me about the trip and I just told him I enjoyed myself. Me and Streeter, went up there, had fun, seen the facilities and seen what they had to offer athletically and academically and you know, we really liked the program. And they will be a thought, something I'll be considering. I'm still committed to Miami, but I'll still be considering the University of Oregon too."
Harris told me he and Streeter, a receiver The U is also trying to chase down, were impressed by the facilities at Oregon and the atmosphere before the team's final game against Oregon State. Harris said he was impressed by the way the crowd responded to its hero, quarterback Dennis Dixon and said he was very impressed by the ovation Dixon was given.
"Soon as he came out, my ears started hurting," Harris said. "It was super loud. They really impressed me. I love the stadium. The stadium is built kind of weird, but it looks good. And I like that feel. The fans there are real supportive, its really a football town, that's all they have there. Oregon Ducks football and Oregon Ducks athletics."
Were there things he liked about Oregon more than UM?
"Yeah, there were a lot of things I liked better than UM. People are always going to say the facilities are better elsewhere than UM. But UM has the tradition of winning games with or without the facility. That's not going to determine where I am going to go. The fans are kind of better because of the fact that's all they have to cheer for. And the fans here if you do bad, they're going to get on you. You do bad there, they don't say too much."
Harris said among the many things he did on his visit was have dinner with Dixon, whom he said coaches were constantly comparing him to.
"He wasn't really trying to convince me to go there, but he was saying how I look very much like him from film. He said how his style of play is. He came in 6-3, 178. I'm coming in 6-3, 172. So, we basically have the same measurements. He runs a 4.48. I run a 4.52. We're kind of similar, both of us."
So, will this open things back up for Harris in recruiting?
"Yeah, I've been open. But it's just the fact I'm still committed to Miami. I don't know, that's still a place that strong in my heart, but Oregon has taken a big chunk of that away. Hopefully, I'll make the right decision."
Harris said he's going to sit down with his parents and talk things over soon. I spoke to Jacory's father, Northwestern defensive coordinator Rodney Harris, who told me "my son would first have to convince his mother to allow him to leave." Jacory said his mother mentioned that to Oregon coaches last night.
So what is UM doing to make sure it doesn't loose a huge commitment? Jacory said he spoke to coach Randy Shannon last night, whom Harris said asked him about his trip and encouraged him to "go on more visits and see other places."
"Your word is your word. And he's not worried about anything," Harris said. "I told him don't be worried about anything."
But should Hurricanes fans be worried, especially after Harris was walking around campus Thursday wearing an Oregon Ducks skully?
"I don't know," Harris said. "I've been messing with everybody today throwing up a University of Miami sign then curving it into an O. I have everybody scared. But those are just the little things I do to mess with everybody."
-- So is Harris going to end up going to Oregon? My money still says no, that he's going to stay put and go to Miami. But after hearing him speak Thursday, I definitely feel there's a chance Dixon and Oregon could sway him. Until now, I had always thought the Northwestern guys were locks.
-- As for the rest of the Bulls, I got a kick out of the way defensive tackle Marcus Forston, another key UM recruit, took to hearing Harris talk about Oregon. Forston refused to shake Harris' hand and told him, "Man, get away from me, you ain't no real Cane." Forston told me when LSU coaches attempted to visit him last week, "I pointed and told them to go home."
-- Forston told me other schools have calling him of late trying to trick him and other recruits by telling them coach Randy Shannon has only one year left on his contract. Forston and Harris both told me they've been receiving calls from UM coaches to stop the false information from spreading. I got a phone call from a UM assistant who pleaded with me and said "please put it out there that coach Shannon's contract runs through 2012. People are spreading garbage that he's only got one year left. That's bull."
-- As for Streeter, landing him at this point is not going to be easy. He said he hasn't spoken to UM coaches in a month. Although, I hear from the other end, it is because Streeter is not returning phone calls, a sign UM coaches have taken as a sign he isn't interested. When I spoke to Streeter for 10 minutes tonight, he seemed a bit brainwashed by the apparent pitches other schools are delivering. He brought up Sean Taylor, safety and how going away can be a good experience. Streeter, who has also visited Boston College, said he won't make a decision until February. But the likelihood of him ending up a Cane is tough at this point. UM coaches are going to have to work hard to convince him. Although, he also told me that the thought of winning a national championship in high school and then following his teammates to the same school is what entices him most about UM.
-- I'll have audio from all of my interviews up shortly, including an interview I did the other night with New Jersey linebacker Zach Kane, a 6-3, 215-pound senior who could become the 24th player to committ to the Hurricanes. Kane told me he plans to visit UM in January and will likely commit then.
-- I've been told UM is down to its final 10 scholarships and will attempt to more of an emphasis in the coming weeks on defensive backs. The Hurricanes are also trying very hard to sway current Illinois commitment Corey Liuget, a 6-3, 260-pound defensive end from Hialeah High. This is the early report. Check back later tonight and tomorrow for more on recruiting.