CORAL GABLES -- With his future eligibility and those of seven teammates now in the hands of the NCAA, University of Miami quarterback Jacory Harris seemed like his usual calm, cool and collected self Saturday when he was asked about the Hurricanes season opener at Maryland Sept. 5.
"Do I expect to play?" Harris said. "Yeah."
Harris, linebacker Sean Spence and six other unnamed football players who allegedly took impermissible gifts from convicted felon and former booster Nevin Shapiro hope to learn soon if that will become a reality. The Miami Herald first reported Thursday that eight players -- including Spence and Harris -- had been deemed ineligible by UM and were in the process of seeking reinstatement from the NCAA, a process UM coach Al Golden said Friday he hopes is expedited.
UM President Donna Shalala said earlier this week that UM was trying to determine the eligibility status of 15 student-athletes. She, nor anyone at UM has specified names or how many were football players. But in a large expose done by Yahoo!, who investigated Shapiro's claims for more than 11 months, 12 are football players (including seven starters on defense) and one is a basketball player, forward DeQuan Jones.
Harris, who ranks second all-time in UM history with 50 touchdown passes and set UM's all-time record with 39 career interceptions, didn't seem to be very worried about any of that Saturday during the team's 30-minute media session with reporters.
"I'm probably the happiest I've ever been -- even with everything that's going on," said Harris, who joked with teammates as they walked by during his interview.
"I just see the brighter side of things. I see a future where there's going to be a lot of success. That's why I'm not even worried about what's going to happen, if anything happens. Just leave it in God's hands. Whatever happens, happens. I just got to deal with it, fight through it.
"Just like these penguins we watched the other day where they weathered a storm for six months and the males had to watch the eggs. Then, when the storms finally subsided, the eggs hatched and they had their goal, which is to have their child. Our goal is to win the national championship. And through it all, we're going to fight, keep on fighting and make it at the end."
Before camp started and Yahoo! dropped its bomb, the biggest story at UM was the impending quarterback battle between Harris and sophomore Stephen Morris. We still don't know who won the starting job and probably won't until UM releases a depth chart on Tuesday. But in light of the situation with Harris, it's likely the NCAA will really decide.
"Every day we went out there with the same mindset -- we both wanted the job," said Morris, who celebrated his 20th birthday Saturday. "We were both going 100 percent and we both knew that every throw we had counted. Everything we did mattered and every decision we made was magnified. It just helped us take our competition to another level."
So who do you think won? "I have no idea man," Morris said.
Harris said he's confident that no matter what happens Morris can lead the Hurricanes.
"Stephen will be ready no matter what," Harris said. " Stephen will be ready the whole year. That's my boy and I'm helping him out with whatever I can.
"He was a freshman last year, just out there having fun, just like I was my freshman year. Now, he's going to have it good because he has years to grow and years under the system where he'll be able to run the offense himself. And as long as he learns it and keeps executing the right way, the way Coach Fisch wants, he can do some tremendous things."
Fisch said both quarterbacks were impressive in fall camp. According to UM, both quarterbacks combined to go 77 of 109 for 954 yards, 11 TDs and one interception in two scrimmages. UM coach Al Golden referred to Harris as "nothing short of excellent" during camp. Harris said Saturday he combined to throw 19 touchdowns and four interceptions between the 20 practices and scrimmages during fall camp.
But it's likely going to be the Stephen Morris show -- at least early on.
"When it comes to Stephen, he's shown great leadership and he can make all the throws and most importantly that he can command the huddle," offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said.
"Stephen's played Maryland before. Stephen brought the team back to a victory, scoring with 35 seconds left last year. Jacory has played in a ton of big games. So these guys have all played in big time games and they'll be fun to watch -- if the quarterbacks, receivers and offensive line do what they're supposed to do."