Seven months ago, junior quarterback Jacory Harris feared the worst when he received word that he had a torn ligament in his right throwing hand that required surgery.
A candidate for the 2010 Davey O’Brien Award and Manning Award who tossed for 3,352 yards and 24 touchdowns, Harris was frightened that his playing career was over.
“That was the worst time in my life because I can’t imagine not being able to play football again,” Harris said. “I was thinking, ‘Oh man, when I get ready to throw, my thumb won’t be healthy. I won’t be able to grip the ball.’ I’m the type of person that always thinks the worst.”
But now, Harris is ready to move forward with the 13th-ranked Hurricanes and improve his season from a year ago.
Harris was the first quarterback since Ken Dorsey in 2002 to throw for 3,000 yards in a season and the seventh Miami quarterback with 3,000 yards passing in a single season. After the Hurricanes started off 3-1, Harris was in contention for the Heisman Trophy.
However, a trip to Chapel Hill, NC on Nov. 14 changed the complexion of the rest of the year.
Harris injured his thumb when he banged his throwing hand against a helmet during the first quarter.
For the rest of the season, the thumb problem had Harris using different wraps, tape jobs and treatments. Due to the predicament, Harris couldn’t squeeze the ball properly and had to adapt to a new release.
He threw side arm, similar to Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young.
Days after the Hurricanes finished 9-4, Harris opted to have surgery on his thumb.
The surgery forced Harris to sit out passing drills, spring practices and the annual spring game. Watching from the sideline, the only thing Harris could grasp was a clipboard, but he worked side-by-side with second-year offensive coordinator Mark Whipple.
Harris believes the experiences on the sideline made him a better quarterback.
“It slowed everything down for me,” Harris said. “I’m able to look at plays, understand our whole playbook, know what reads are going to be there against coverages. Now I can see the play, what receivers are going to be open. Now it’s just a matter of me getting the ball there.”
Harris spent most of his time mentoring backup quarterbacks sophomore A.J. Highsmith, junior Spencer Whipple and freshman Stephen Morris.
Still, head coach Randy Shannon was critical of Harris and felt the spring was a learning experience for him.
“Sometimes Jacory would say, ‘Why did he make that throw?’ I would tell him you made those same exact throws,” Shannon said. “He’s grown now, has seen a lot of different things and understands the things it takes to win.”
Harris not only worked on being mentally tougher, but he also worked on his technique. Harris worked hours on his three-step drops and five-step drops all while pretending to hold and release the ball.
During fall practices, Harris has been wearing a protective brace around his thumb, but Shannon insists it is for precautionary reasons.
Redshirt junior center Tyler Horn and the rest of the offensive linemen plan on keeping Harris off his back this year. Harris was sacked 35 times last season.
“We don’t want to get any dirt on 12’s jersey,” Horn said. “That’s the goal.”
While Harris is more reserved this offseason and not talking about the outfit he’ll wear to the Heisman Trophy ceremony, he still has high expectations.
“At the University of Miami you’re expected to go 12-0,” Harris said. “You have 30 players on the team, they still expect you to go 12-0. If you’re not prepared for that, you shouldn’t have come to this place.”
Lelan LeDoux may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.