Christian Harris benefitting from first year as Alabama football's inside linebacker
Christian Harris had a lot to digest when he began his freshman year at Alabama. As a summer enrollee, he had two months to familiarize himself with playbook, and do so at a new position: inside linebacker, the defense’s most complex position.
Harris was thrust into a starting role handled it the best he could, he admits with plenty of help around him.
Harris ended his freshman season fourth on UA’s defense in tackles, third with 7 1/2 tackles for a loss and contributed to the pass rush with five quarterback hurries. Harris’ physical gifts helped him produce some in 2019, and he anticipates a better football mind to help him in 2020.
“The communication, I feel like communication was one of the biggest things I needed to work on,” Harris said. “I’ve worked on that a lot, I feel more comfortable with the playbook. Now I can just go out there and play football, not think and move slow. I can just play football like I’ve always been doing.”
Harris quickly learned he had to understand the entire defensive and its responsibilities, more than just his own or of those in his position group, as may have been the case as a cornerback. UA helped him out by taking him out of dime packages midway through last season, replacing him with Markail Benton, thus giving Harris less to prepare for between games. Benton’s departure leaves UA without that potential specialty substitution, meaning this year’s inside linebackers will have to know the entire scheme.
Harris has had plenty of help in that regard. He is particularly close with fellow Baton Rouge, Louisiana, native Dylan Moses, who Harris said he has known since he was 6 years old.
“He’s been like a big brother to me, always helping me out even though he got hurt,” Moses said. “He was always on the sidelines giving me tips, extra stuff that’s been helping me out to make sure I’m doing whatever I can to help the team.”
Harris was also surrounded by then-fifth year senior Joshua McMillon and inside linebackers coach/defensive coordinator Pete Golding, who Harris called one of the best coaches in the country.
The same players that helped him through 2019 could be the same ones that keep him off the field in 2020. Harris gained a lot from his one season of play, but he remains less experienced than Moses and McMillon.
Harris feels up for the task — his surroundings give him no choice but to rise to the occasion.
“I had no choice but to get better every day, especially with the offense that we have,” Harris said. “You have (running backs) Najee Harris, Trey Sanders, (Brian Robinson Jr.), you have no choice but to get better every day."
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