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Blog Entry

Can scouts trust Cliff Harris?

Posted on: October 25, 2011 4:02 pm
 
One day after news that the top-rated senior cornerback prospect in the West had been arrested came news that the top junior cornerback on the west coast also found himself in legal hot water.

As first reported by The Oregonian's Aaron Fentress, Oregon cornerback Cliff Harris was cited Monday for multiple driving infractions, including failure to use a seat belt, have a valid driver's license or proof of insurance. The fines were enough to get Harris suspended indefinitely yet again from the Oregon program.

On the surface, Harris' infractions don't seem to be that big of a deal. After all, there have been plenty of players who have been drafted -- and many as even first round picks -- who have been accused of much more troubling crimes than Harris'.

The problem with Harris is that he doesn't appear to be learning from his mistakes.

This is the same Harris, of course, who was suspended for the Ducks' season-opener against LSU after being ticketed for driving 118 miles per hour. According to the video surveillance camera aboard the police cruiser driven by the officer who pulled him over, Harris admitted to smoking marijuana while doing so. He also did not have insurance or a valid license during this stop -- the result of racking up thousands of dollars in fines from previous infractions in the state of Oregon and California (where he was raised).

NFL teams are going to be attracted to Harris for the same reason Ducks' head coach Chip Kelly is... the kid can flat play football. Harris, one of only four consensus All-Americans in Oregon football history, led the Pac-10 with six interceptions last season. He led the entire country with 23 passes defended. Furthermore, he led the country with four punt returns for scores. Harris added a fifth non-offensive touchdown by taking one of his interceptions back for a score, as well, last season.

Despite the fact that he's been battling to get out of Kelly's doghouse for much of this season, Harris has already made an impact on the field. Though he only has nine total tackles on the year, Harris is tied for the team lead with five passes broken up, including intercepting his first pass of the season in the Ducks' biggest game (at least in the biggest game he played in) against Arizona State October 15.

While Harris is undeniably athletic, teams are going to have a hard time investing a first round pick in a player that they can't trust to stay out of trouble. More and more teams are recognizing that knuckleheads, regardless of how talented, can have a negative impact on the locker room and success on the field.

I've been a primary defender of the Oregon cornerback to keep him high on NFLDraftScout.com's rankings. Despite the fact that he's being listed as 2nd-3rd round prospect in our current rankings, I've been listing him among my Top 32.

I turned in my new Big Board to my editors just a few hours ago. For the first time this year, it did not include Harris. To earn my trust back -- and more importantly that of Chip Kelly and NFL scouts -- Harris will need to finally start to handle himself with some maturity.
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