AMES — Jordan Harris likes to hit people.
That’s no secret, of course, but having to redshirt last season delayed the unveiling of his big-hitting ability, until now.
"I was frustrated because I didn’t know what was going on,” the 6-0, 233-pound junior said. “I knew what was going on but I just couldn’t translate it to the field. You can know the whole defense in there (the meeting room) but you’ve got to translate it out on the field to be successful.”
Harris showed off that love for hitting people in junior college. The redshirt junior from Clarksdale, Miss. led the nation in tackles during his sophomore season at Copiah-Lincoln C.C.
His raw talent likely could have helped last year’s Iowa State defense, but he wasn’t ready.
Something clicked for Harris this spring.
He started playing faster, and he has taken steps towards becoming the general of the front seven.
“Jordan’s come a long way, and I won’t just say in fall camp. Jordan’s come a long ways since he arrived here,” said Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads. “He plays with passion, he plays with emotion and you can see that. That helps your leadership qualities as well. Certainly has a lot better understanding of what it is we’re asking.”
The mental aspects of the game have finally started to catch up with the raw talent Rhoads’ staff saw on film before they recruited him.
“His film was a highlight reel of big hits, so you knew he was capable of all that,” Rhoads said. “Come spring time he finally started understanding and operating faster in our defense.”
Harris will likely split snaps with redshirt junior Kane Seeley, at least to start the season. Rhoads says there isn’t much separation between the two with a little more than two weeks to go before the Cyclones take the field Sept. 5 against Northern Iowa.
“I know the defense like the back of my hand now,” Harris said. “I put in a lot of time since the guys that helped me last year are gone. I had to put that on my own shoulders, and spend more time in the film room, spend more time meeting with (coach) Wally (Burnham) and things of that nature.”
Confidence is another attribute that certainly isn’t lacking in Harris, and that self-assuredness has led to some high expectations for the linebacker corps.
“The linebacker corps, in my opinion, as the season goes on, it will grow to be one of the strongest corps on the team,” Harris said. “You’ve got Jay Jones. You’ve got Kane back with experience. Willie Harvey’s going to be really good. Brian Mills, he’s going to be good, Reggan Northrup. I can keep naming all day.”
Harris has improved his understanding of the defense and has grown as a leader since he arrived on campus at Iowa State, but it still comes down to one thing for him.
He likes to hit people, and he’s darn good at it. He smiles, they groan.
“He hits and it gives you chills,” Jones said. “It hurts me when he hits people sometimes.”