The Roundup’s end of spring rundown kicks off with a look at players from the one and true king, Southwest Conference, who are primed to pop this fall on a field near you. We call them Playmakers*, we hope by next December they’ll be household names. *This series has no affiliation with the dumpster fire ESPN series from the early 2000s.
If I asked you about the intricacies of the human knee, most of us would be stumped. There’s a joint, tendons, bones, most of us could lay out the basic stuff but not much more. We assume that Frank Harris can go in depth on the human knee. He can give that dissertation because he’s spent the last three years recovering from two different knee surgeries. He’s practically an orthopedic surgeon by now.
Those setbacks have delayed Harris’ arrival to UTSA’s football landscape. Now, in 2019, Frank Harris is back, and UTSA needs his knees to stay out of the headlines and off the operating table.
Typically our Playmakers series involves a player who’s demonstrated an understanding and ability at the college level, and those traits are predictive of big things. For Frank Harris, we’re betting on potential. We think you should too.
Let’s go back in time and review the rough road that got us and UTSA to this point. In the beginning, there was Eric Soza, and behold; Eric Soza was good - real good. Soza was a bonafide dual threat gym rat. He led the Runners to an unlikely 17-15 record in their first three years of existence. Then Soza graduated and lo, things got rough.
The promising Austin Robinson took up the position but then transferred and became a linebacker. Blake Bogenschutz, highly touted out of Beast Texas, retired from football due to concussion-related issues. Zach Conque, a giant of a pass slinger, left San Antonio to play for his old man at SFA. These were dark times.
Then a brash, young, walk-on hero emerged in Dalton Sturm. He carried UTSA to a bowl game and twelve wins in two seasons. He rewrote UTSA’s young record book and even got a shot with America’s Team. But alas, the Roadrunner quarterback room once again fell on hard times.
2018 was an open audition for a movie no one wanted to see. The Runners started with Cordale Grundy, then D.J. Gillins, then Jo Jo Weeks, and finally Bryce Rivers. None worked out. UTSA picked up three wins, averaged a pathetic 14 points a game, and the seat under head coach Frank Wilson become hot.
Let us never speak of these things again.
Enter Frank Harris from Clemens High School, north of town. If you missed Harris in high school, let me give you the Cliffsnotes assessment, he was dynamic. In his junior year, with a full complement of games, Harris accounted for over 4,500 yards of total offense and 55 touchdowns. Baylor, Georgia Tech, and UCF all made pitches, but Harris decided to stay close to home and signed with UTSA.
His senior year at Clemens he was putting up similar numbers for a 5-2 Buffs team when he injured his knee in a showdown against Judson. Clemens never recovered, losing their remaining games and Harris started to become all too familiar with his knee joint. Harris was primed to compete for the starting job in 2018 when a non-contact injury in April derailed his season.
But when Harris is on the field, things have typically gone well. He’s a true dual-threat quarterback — his passing and rushing production shadow each other. On film Harris is silky smooth on his feet, gliding with minor adjustments to clear traffic than with a subtle burst in the open field. He makes elusive plays look easy, effortless.
He has a truncated throwing motion - no holstering, quick through the shoulder - reminiscent of Phillip Rivers, and the ball pops out of his hand. In the pocket he moves with a purpose, his eyes are downfield, but when he sees a crease, he’ll take it. Harris forces the defense to cover a lot of acreage and stay disciplined in their rush lanes.
He’s more dangerous when moving, his arm isn’t overpowering, and he’ll need to continue to work on his accuracy. In high school he completed just over 53% of his passes, though his junior and senior year that number rose to just under 58%. Accuracy tends to translate reasonably well to the college level. While his high school tape is just that - high school tape, his athletic baseline flashes throughout. His escapability and pocket movement reminds us of a young, pre-pool float swan, Johnny Manziel, from his time at Tivy.
In the spring Harris seemed to have the edge over Grundy, Weeks, and LSU transfer Lowell Narcisse. Harris appeared to show few if any ill effects from his layoff. In UTSA’s annual Spring Football Fiesta, he led the team in rushing, including a 42-yard scamper and was the most consistent passer.
For his part Wilson didn’t name a starter coming out of the spring, he doesn’t have to. He’ll likely dangle that carrot as a motivation for players to attack summer conditioning and throwing sessions. It’s a massive year for Wilson, another three-win debacle and he’s probably out at UTSA. Primed as a great recruiter and talent evaluator, Wilson needs his quarterback situation to work itself out, and if Harris can emerge and stay healthy, UTSA will cause teams problems this fall.