Harris glad to be back on the field at IU #iufb

The soothing voice of his mother and the reminders that this was only temporary carried J-Shun Harris through his year in the background.

Laid up while he recovered from an ACL tear suffered during the first week of summer workouts last year, Indiana’s shifty slot receiver leaned on his mother’s words while his rehabilitation dragged through the fall and winter.

Stephanie Peterson told her son to keep praying, to keep his vision focused squarely on the next year. These things happen, she told him, even showing him videos of NFL players who tore their ACLs only to come back healed and ready to play.

“You know how moms are,” Harris said. “They hate to see their babies down. She definitely made sure I was right, mentally.”

Indiana receiver J-Shun Harris celebrates a touchdown scored at Missouri on Sept. 20, 2014. (Chris Howell | Herald-Times)
Indiana receiver J-Shun Harris celebrates a touchdown scored at Missouri on Sept. 20, 2014. (Chris Howell | Herald-Times)
Now, more than a year removed from that injury suffered early last summer, Harris is ready to reclaim a role as a reliable receiver entering his redshirt sophomore season.

“I think J-Shun is back, I really do,” Indiana offensive coordinator Kevin Johns said. “Boy, he looks fast and explosive.”

Harris’ return adds further firepower to an IU offense that shouldn’t hurt for weapons at the skill positions. The Fishers product emerged as a contributor in the slot in 2014, and would’ve been IU’s leading returning receiver last fall after catching 18 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman.

247 Sports and the Big Ten Network thought so highly of Harris, IU’s 2014 Newcomer of the Year, that both outlets named him to their Big Ten All-Freshman team that season.

Building on that breakout season, however, was not to be. At least not immediately.

Although he suffered a concussion previously in his football career, Harris had never dealt with an injury that kept him off the field so long. He watched games from the sideline and on TV, while also seeking pick-me-ups from teammates Marcus Oliver and Chris Covington, both of whom suffered ACL injuries during the 2014 season.

“It was definitely tough, seeing how the season went,” Harris said. “Of course, I’m happy for my guys because they worked hard all spring, all winter, but seeing that from my house was a little saddening. My mom and my family and my teammates kept my hopes high that I would come back and be a better player than I was before.”

A week into fall camp, the early returns are promising.

So far, Harris has checked all the boxes for IU’s coaching staff. Johns wanted to see him respond from taking a hit or two, while also watching to see how he made live, change-of-direction cuts in a competitive environment.

“I really think he’s back,” Johns said. “He’s doing a lot of good things.”

As he returns, Harris finds himself in a very intriguing competition in the slot. During his absence last fall, Mitchell Paige took the opportunity to win the slot job and made it his own, leading Indiana with six touchdown receptions and finishing second with 57 receptions for 684 yards.

Paige may be the frontrunner to start, but Harris will see the field, too. With the season opener at Florida International looming on Sept. 1, Wilson says Harris is in a “dog fight” to battle Paige for reps in the slot.

“(Harris) is a little bit slighter,” Wilson said. “He’s still about 170 (pounds), where Mitchell is a little closer to 180 and a little bit thicker. But the way we play with tempo and playing so many guys, you gotta have a couple good players. I think sometimes when we’ve taken Shane Wynn out in years past, the slot wasn’t as good. I think now, with Mitchell and J-Shun, if we can understand our roles, I think they both can complement each other. They both can play a lot.”

That’s certainly on the mind of Harris, who is in the middle of a heated, but friendly competition with Paige at the position.

Mostly, too, he’s simply happy to be back on the field.

“He’s a little more hungry than he was last time,” Johns said. “Anytime you have a year taken away from you, the next time you have a chance to come back you sort of appreciate everything a little bit more. You’re not on the side rehabbing an injured knee. Now you’re actually on there playing a game. I see a different sense of urgency.”

6 comments

  1. From a fan’s perspective it is good to see Harris back on the field for the Hoosiers. He adds talent to a group that played well last year and now has solid players added to IU’s front line receivers.

    No matter what direction the coaches take the talent on the offensive side allows the team to go at breakneck speed putting defenses in a trap about playing tired players v. rested receivers. Or IU can control the ball and send out a number of RBs with different skills balanced by the passing game. This makes it very tough for defenses as stacking the box doesn’t work if you can stretch the field as an offense. IU’s offensive options make it difficult for defenses to control our offense hoping that the floodgates don’t open up allowing IU to score many points in a hurry.

    Welcome back J-Shun, make this offense special and punish defenses like they haven’t ever seen in the past.

  2. Looking @ IU fb schedule for 2016 I can’t help but confirm my belief that this is the time of year again that IU fb fans Wish Upon A Star. I think the program is improved, stronger, and continues in an upward direction. However, they could win anywhere from 3 or 4 to 6, 7, or 8. Yes, potentially go undefeated as in the overwelming majority of seasons for the past 60 years.

  3. t, this is the time of the season for all fans to dream of how good their team can be. Reality opens in three weeks which leads to re-evaluation once the B1G season opens. 3-0 going into the B1G season has a much different feel than 2-1. It is exciting to see fans thinking this could be a special year for IUFB and base it on the talent on the team along with the wanting to see how the defense looks with the changes and our new coaches on defense. I don’t see this team losing more than six games and I don’t think it will be that many. Bring the season on so we can see the answers to these questions.

  4. I agree with you. I was making an observation so many many many seasons over the past 60 or so years the tone of conversation is very similar.

  5. One thing that has most notably improved as KW stated he wanted to do when he arrived *more size and girth is the physicality of the team as in looking more like a major conference team. Though they have there share of injuries + players transferring or getting in trouble and often lacked depth especially at QB they are more physically competitive.

  6. T, you are right about where IU is now compared to the past. I told my wife at dinner tonight, if we had Allen as DC last year IU could have won most of their close games and had a great year. This year may be far better than we dare hope but it sure would be nice to see them stop teams on a regular or semi-regular basis instead of knowing they would give up enough points to lose a game. IU now has depth at each spot and quality players to back up the starters. I hope they win some unexpected games to give better athletes [although IU has done well with the recruits they pull in now] a reason to come to IU to compete against the “big boys” I have my one game I can make it to the stadium set for MSU and the start of the B1G season. How that game goes will say a lot about the season overall. I really believe this is a critical season for IUFB to see if they can continue to improve.

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