Temple's transition back into the Big East became much smoother over the weekend when it was announced that the team landed former Boston College running back Montel Harris.
The 5-10, 207-pounder, who is BC's all-time leading rusher with 3,735 yards and is the active career rushing leader in the FBS, is eligible to play for the Owls this fall for his final collegiate season. He was dismissed from the BC program earlier in the offseason due to a repeated violation of team rules.
So what type of player is Temple adding to the offensive mix in Philadephia?
ICONMontel Harris is the active career rushing leader in the FBS.
Over his career, Harris has produced 22 100-yard games as the focal point of the BC offense. He was an all-ACC selection in both 2009 and 2010 and recorded over 1,400 all-purpose yards in each of his first three seasons in Chestnut Hill. Now, in Philly, he'll strengthen a rushing attack that lost Bernard Pierce, who led the team with nearly 1,500 yards in 2011 but left early for the NFL. Despite the return of Matt Brown, the Owls like to employ two backs to keep each one fresh. And any college football fan who has watched Temple in recent seasons knows that the run game will be the focus of the Owls' offensive attack, especially with questions at the quarterback position.
Harris is a different type of back than Brown. Because he is five inches and 37 pounds bigger than Brown, Temple gains a back that can excel between the tackles and take some of the wear and tear off of the diminutive Brown, who could be more of a change of pace back despite being the likely listed starter. The team also gains another experienced back to make up for the loss of Pierce, so the Harris-Brown tandem should be one of the better ones in the nation. And backfield depth is always a bonus, especially with the Owls taking a step up from the MAC.
The major concern surrounding Harris is his health. He suffered a left knee injury that cost him the last three games of the 2010 season. After missing the first three contests of 2011 following a procedure on the knee, he returned to action for two matchups before reinjuring it and missing the rest of the season. But many thought that he would arrive at BC's spring practice ready to once again be a workhorse back. However, he couldn't make it through the first week of drills without being sidelined again. He was later dismissed.
While counting on Harris to be in top form may be a mistake, Temple will be strong on the ground regardless because Brown was able to excel as the main back when Pierce was hurt in 2010. That season he rushed for 830 yards and seven touchdowns on 162 carries after an impressive debut campaign in 2009. And last year he nearly recorded 1,000 yards in a platoon role.
At Temple, Harris will be reunited with former BC coaches Kevin Rogers and Ryan Day, who were brought aboard by head coach Steve Addazio. So that familiarity with part of the staff will be very helpful. It will also help take some pressure off of the team's passing attack, especially because quarterback Chris Coyer and his receivers struggled in the team's spring game. However, the signal-caller was impressive when he saw action late last season, including the bowl game against New Mexico. He is the unquestioned leader on this team despite the arrival of former Penn State signal-caller Kevin Newsome. But can Coyer play consistently well for a full season? The Owls also have four new starters on the offensive line, so pass protection is an issue.
But with Addazio, who has always believed in a strong rushing attack, expect a heavy dose of the run game as the Owls transition back into the Big East. And it's an attack that just became infinitely stronger if Harris is able to stay on the field. A big “if,” but a risk well worth it.
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